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Eleven Panthers ruled out of Nines squad

NZN 17/01/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Penrith are set to join the Wests Tigers in taking a heavily depleted squad to next month's Auckland Nines as coaches wrap their stars in cotton wool for the 2017 NRL season.

Less than a day after Tigers coach Jason Taylor asked fans not to get too excited about the club's Nines chances, Panthers counterpart Anthony Griffin ruled out close to a dozen stars.

The Panthers' coach confirmed his five Four Nations participants were going to stay home, as would another four players involved in the All Stars fixture.

Former New Zealand internationals Dean Whare and Peta Hiku also won't be considered as they continue their comebacks from major knee injuries.

"Dean only just got cleared with his knee and Peta hasn't been cleared yet. So we'll only play people that are 100 per cent fit and that have done the full pre-season," Griffin told AAP.

"Dean is a little bit ahead of Peta time-wise, but he did his about a month before Peta. They'll both hopefully get at least one trial against Parramatta."

Skipper Matt Moylan and Trent Merrin represented the Kangaroos, while Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, James Fisher-Harris and Te Maire Martin toured late last year with the Kiwis.

The quintet will be joined at the foot of the mountains by All Stars selections Bryce Cartwright, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tyrone Peachey and Leilani Latu.

The withdrawals leave Peter Wallace, Nathan Cleary, Waqa Blake and recruits James Tamou and Mitch Rein to lead what is likely to be an inexperienced group.

"The guys in the All Stars game won't go, and the guys that toured won't go because they've only just returned to training. The reconstructions won't go, obviously," Griffin said.

"So there'll be a lot of opportunities for some of our younger guys. We'll field the strongest side we can, but there's about a dozen of our top 25 that are unavailable for one reason or another."

The Panthers finalise their pre-season with a camp in Port Macquarie this week before the Nines tournament on February 4-5, and two trials in February.

"We're getting towards trials so it's a good opportunity for us to have a few days away as a team and finalise our teamwork and combinations," Griffin said.

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