The Panthers are on the verge of becoming one of the NRL’s “big teams” and in the process could break a record as old as the competition itself.
No team has ever won all four degrees in one season and the Panthers have already secured competitions in SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and the NSW Cup.
If Ivan Cleary’s side can win a second premiership in as many years on Sunday, they will become the first team to complete a clean sweep in their 113-year history.
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NRL360 host Breit Anasta believes if the Panthers can win a premiership, they will etch their names alongside the St George Dragons of the 1950s and 60s and the Broncos of the 1990s.
Meanwhile, NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent was impressed with the Panthers’ ability to build on their premiership-winning season and shake off the “burden” of being champions.
“If they win this week, I think they’re going to be one of the great teams,” Anasta said.
“The burden of winning a premiership hasn’t affected them and I think that’s because a lot of the young guns have come through that junior system where they’re used to winning competitions,” Kent said.
“A lot of teams coming into the season carry the burden of trying to defend, you see a lot of teams, they’re almost all off to a hot start, they’re going to go on seven-, eight-, nine-, 10-game streaks.
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“Then they have that emotional breakdown and it undoes them, that Penrith side hasn’t missed a beat.”
Fox League’s James Hooper also marveled at the Panthers’ youth garden, which is producing a wealth of rugby league talent.
“They’re a development club, they’ve got the biggest junior rugby school in the world and they’ve just got it so right,” Hooper said.
“They’ve won SG Ball, Jersey Flegg, NSW Cup, now they’re going for the NRL title on Sunday.
“I think in this group of eight or nine local juniors, even if players leave, there will be more players coming off the pipeline.
“What the Panthers were able to accomplish was phenomenal.”
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At the end of the 2022 season, several players are leaving Penrith for rival clubs.
Api Karaisov will move to the Tigers, Robert Jennings and Sean O’Sullivan will join the Dolphins, while Viliame Kikov will move to Belmore to link up with current assistant Cameron Ciraldo.
Add in J’maine Hopgood (Eels) and Isaiah Katoa (Dolphins), and Ivan Cleary loses six regular freshmen.
While the Panthers have already signed Luke Garner and Zac Hosking, Kent believes the fact that they are winning junior titles means the competition should be feared by the Highlanders for years to come.
“The fact that they are going back to the SG Ball premiership shows that they have the players to work for the next eight years,” Kent said.
“All they have to do is just keep the right ones.”