Whare to make NRL return for Panthers

The embarrassment of being handed the NRL wooden spoon goes on the line when a depleted Penrith side host Newcastle in the final game of the season for the struggling outfits.

Both sides have won just eight games each this year to occupy the bottom two rungs on the ladder, however the Knights sit last with a worst points differential.

A win would lift them above the Panthers, who would then finish with the fifth wooden spoon in the club’s history, and third since the turn of the century.

Only once, in 2005, have Newcastle finished in last spot.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary remained positive on what has been a disappointing season.

“Whatever happens, we’ll finish the year and be a couple of wins shy – considering everything that’s happened to us – of what would’ve been a pretty good effort,” he said.

“It was only 12 months ago we were up in the top four. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but you’re never too far away on this comp.”

Injuries to Jamie Soward (concussion) and Bryce Cartwright (kidney) in last week’s defeat to Canberra have taken Penrith’s casualty ward into double figures.

Cartwright was only moved from Canberra hospital to Norwest Private Hospital on Thursday.

But last year’s preliminary finalists did get a boost on game eve, with centre Dean Whare set to return from a broken thumb.

“It’s always good to have a class player back in the ranks. Looking forward to seeing him get out there tomorrow,” Cleary said.

Youngsters Sione Katoa and Chris Smith have also been confirmed as debutants, while winger David Simmons will captain the club in his final game before retirement.

Newcastle prop Korbin Sims was cleared of a knee lifting charge at the judiciary on Wednesday night, and will now take his place in the line-up.

Hooker Adam Clydsdale also returns from an illness in what is an otherwise unchanged line-up from the one that almost upset Canterbury last week.


* Penrith’s home record against the Knights is the worst against any team in the competition, winning just six of 21 matches against them and three of their past 15.

* Since the beginning of 2006, 11 of the 14 matches between these two teams have been decided by double figure margins, including all five matches at Penrith.

* This will be just the second time since 1980 that the team coming second last has met the team coming last in the final game of the season.

* If Penrith fail to reach 31 points against the Knights, it will be the first time since 1996 that they failed to score 400 points in an entire season.

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