Daine’s hometown pride as he keeps a clean-sheet
IF THERE were any nerves for former Lower Clarence Magpie and Grafton Ghost Daine Laurie as he started his first game for the Penrith Panthers at fullback, they didn’t last long.
With the number 2466 on his armband representing his hometown of Iluka, Laurie took just six minutes to help his side get on the board.
After absorbing the pressure of an early 40/20 kick from the Bulldog opposition, they weathered the storm with a strong run upfield.
Halfback Nathan Cleary shifted it right, with Laurie able to get outside his defender and created an overlap to put Brian To’o into the corner.
Laurie helped keep the Bulldogs scoreless, despite being under constant pressure from the Dogs throughout the first half.
Laurie topped the Panthers stats sheet for metres made, with 215m made from 22 runs. He also made 53 post-contact metres and four line-breaks in a performance that will hold him in good stead.
It was enough for Panthers coach Ivan Cleary to praise his first-time effort in the end-of-game press conference, saying he took the opportunity with both hands.
“I thought he went really well,” Cleary said. “Daine since he made his debut, he didn’t get a lot of game time and he’s been training the house down – as all our boys who aren’t in our squad have been.
“It’s a big reason of why our first squad is playing so well.
“It was really good to give him an opportunity today.”
Laurie’s work ethic after he moved away from home of Iluka has been a hallmark of his rise through the ranks, joining the Panthers SG Ball squad in 2017, and was named their Jersey Flegg Cup player of the year in 2018.
He made his debut in round 13 this year, and the Panthers captured the emotional moment he was named in the squad for the first time.
Laurie and his teammates, who come into the finals on a 15-game winning stream will face the Sydney Roosters on Friday night at Panthers Stadium, who are coming off a 60-8 loss to the Rabbitohs.
The winner of the match will enter the qualifying final in two weeks, while the loser will go into a sudden death match.