Lock forward Hohepa Puru is another case of ‘remember the name’ from the plethora of Rugby League talent at the Penrith Panthers in 2022.
And more recently the young gun has headed south of the border, taking up an ongoing training opportunity with the Canberra Raiders.
He was captain of Penrith’s 2022 Jersey Flegg Cup team, who saved his best performance of the year for last in the Grand Final win against Newcastle in Golden Point, later earning him Player of the Match honours.
Running for 185 metres, producing a line-break, line-break assist and making 36 tackles was a huge captain’s effort by Puru. He led from the front in a strong Under 21s team featuring Tongan international Isaiya Katoa, Mavrik Geyer, Liam Ison and Samuel Lane.
Winning the trophy from a 12-point deficit was all the more rewarding for the Panthers on that day, but the skipper was especially pleased with how his side stayed in the battle under scoreboard pressure.
“We stuck in well, held well, we didn’t start the way we wanted to, but we stayed in there and got the treats at the end,” Puru said.
That same attitude was just as strong a few weeks prior when a host of Under 21s stars stepped up to the plate for The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup Qualifying Final against the North Sydney Bears, with the Panther cubs coming up trumps after conceding the opening try.
It was a big occasion for Puru himself as he made his first appearance in the starting 13 jersey following five stints off the bench. He played all 80 minutes with 151 run metres and 41 tackles.
As Puru looks to start the next chapter of his career in the ACT, his on-field experiences in 2022 will prove invaluable for the Windsor junior with whatever the future holds.