Rookie Penrith winger Charlie Staines had an NRL debut for the history books becoming just the second player in the NRL era to score four tries in his first game in the top grade.
The Panthers smashed the Sharks 56-24 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to secure top spot on the NRL ladder and bundle Cronulla out of the top eight but naturally all the buzz was about the 19-year-old from Parkes, in Central NSW, at full-time.
The teen was given his chance against the Sharks after winger Bran To’o suffered an ankle injury in last weekend’s close victory over Wests.
Staines grabs double on debut
Signed by the Panthers as a development player during the off-season, the teenager was only eligible to make his debut when he was cleared on June 30th.
He is one of several young players from Central NSW in the team and was part of the Western Rams development squad, before he and five-eighth Matt Burton moved to Penrith in 2018 to play SG Ball.
A year later he was named the NSWRL’s Jersey Flegg player of the year.
It didn’t take long before Ivan Cleary drafted the star into his line up and his first ever game in the top grade was as memorable as they come.
Friends of the youngster came out in force to show their support for the star, who also had a try-assist in the hammering, and were seen celebrating every time he found the line. They even changed ends at halftime so they could catch more tries on Staines’ wing.
“To play this weekend was a dream come true,” Staines told Fox League after the match.
“I’m lost for words.
“One try is great – four tries is unreal.”
Staines finished the game with 158 run metres, four line breaks, a try-assist and 16 points. He said coach Ivan Cleary didn’t throw too many ideas at him in the lead up, just urging the youngster “to do what you do.”
The Panthers showed plenty of energy in the win and play like a team that enjoy each other’s company. Every time Staines went over he was mobbed by his teammates.
Penrith was on another level and were ahead by 26 points with five tries in 25 minutes and the result never seemed in doubt despite Cronulla scoring back-to back tries before halftime which bridged the gap a touch. The haul was the most points Penrith had recorded in the first half of an NRL match since 2016.
“Charlie Staines has had the dream debut, the absolute dream debut,” Sydney Roosters great Braith Anasta said in commentary.
“The 19-year-old from central western New South Wales has four tries on debut!,” said Warren Smith.
“He’s got a smile like a split watermelon, and why wouldn’t you.
“He has looked every bit the part.”