The Panthers are on the cusp of becoming one of the NRL’s “great teams” and in the process could break a record as old as the competition itself.
No team has ever won all four grades in one season and the Panthers have already secured the SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup competitions.
If Ivan Cleary’s side can clinch a second premiership in as many years on Sunday — they will become the first team ever to take the clean sweep in history dating back 113 years.
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NRL360 host Braith Anasta believes in the Panthers can secure back-to-back premierships they will etch their names alongside the 1950-60 St George Dragons and the 1990s Broncos.
Meanwhile, NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent has been left amazing by the Panthers ability to back-up after a premiership winning season and shrug off the “burden” of being champions.
“If they do win this week, in my opinion, they become one of the great teams,” Anasta said.
“The burden of winning a premiership has not affected them, and I think that is because so many of the young guns have come through this junior system where they are used to winning comps,” Kent said.
“A lot of teams coming into the season carry a burden when trying to defend, you see a lot of teams, they nearly all start hot, they will go on a seven, eight, nine, ten-win streak.
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“Then they have this emotional crash, and that brings them undone, this Penrith side has not missed a step.”
Fox League’s James Hooper also marveled at the Panthers junior nursery which produces a wealth of rugby league talent.
“They are a development club, they have got the biggest rugby league junior nursery in the world, and they have just got is so right,” Hooper said.
“They have won the SG Ball, the Jersey Flegg, the NSW Cup, now they go for the NRL title on Sunday.
“I think there is eight or nine local juniors in this side, even when players go there will be more players coming off the production line.
“It has been phenomenal what the Panthers have been able to achieve.”
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At the conclusion of the 2022 season, a number of players are departing Penrith to join rival clubs.
Api Koroisau will move to the Tigers, Robert Jennings and Sean O’Sullivan join the Dolphins, while Viliame Kikau will shift to Belmore to link up with current assistant Cameron Ciraldo.
Add in J’maine Hopgood (Eels) and Isaiya Katoa (Dolphins) and Ivan Cleary is losing six regular first graders.
While the Panthers have already signed Luke Garner and Zac Hosking, Kent believes the fact they are winning junior titles means the competition should fear the mountain men for years to come.
“The fact they go back to the SG Ball winning premierships shows they have players coming through for the next eight years,” Kent said.
“All they have to do is just keep the right ones.”
The panel then discussed the impact Phil Gould had on the Panthers during his time at the foot of the mountains.
“How much of this success is put down to Gus Gould,” Anasta questioned.
“Obviously I have played a big role in pathways and the smartest thing he did was sign Matt Cameron who everyone has told me for years is an absolute superstar around bringing kids through and setting up the right systems,” Rothfield replied.
“I will say this about Gus. Gus sacked Ivan Cleary said he was tired. Gus didn’t want to bring back Ivan Cleary.
“Gus actually quit after they went behind his back to bring Clearly back. So when Cleary did come back against his wishes from him, Cleary had to dismantle the roster that Gus had built.
“He sold Campbell-Gillard, Waqa Blake and a few other players here and there. So I don’t think he was the be all and end all but he did make a significant contribution.
Paul Kent then pinpointed one area where Gould made the biggest impact.
What he did was he showed Penrith how important it was to invest in their junior pathways and then cleared all the rubbish out as far as beaur as all the beaur you often get at football clubs and just made it very simple, the pathway through from SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and all the way through the NRL.
“By doing that and putting verfy simple practiced in place it just enabled talent to rise.”