Recap of Last Season
The 2022 Panthers season was almost faultless. They set the bar as the top of the table from the very beginning and had no signs of slowing down. Not only did this perfection hold for their NRL sides, but Penrith also had success with their reserve and youth sides too.
Penrith did have its share of challenges, losing Nathan Cleary for a significant chunk of the season, through injury, suspension and origin. Origin also took several other stars, forming a high percentage of the New South Wales side. Despite this, new faces stepped into the side and showcased the fruits of their extensive player development pathways.
This level of talent continued through finals breezing through finals rounds, as convincing wins against Parramatta and South Sydney put them through into their third straight grand final.
From here, a thrashing of Parramatta led the side to back-to-back premierships.
How they can improve
Is improvement even possible from here? Last year’s side was about as close to perfection as we’ve seen from any NRL side in recent years.
However, there are new challenges the side will have to face. Losing Villame Kikau and Api Koroisau will both be significant hurdles the side will have to face for 2023.
Their strong youth development and some solid signings of their own should help counter this challenge, but it’s hard to see how well the side performs until games actually kick off.
Another early concern from the preseason trials was their World Club Challenge loss to St. Helens. While this was only a single, preseason game, they were only the second NRL side to lose the World Club Challenge in the past decade (and the first to do so in Australia since 1994).
In: Luke Garner (Wests Tigers), Tyrone Peachey (Wests Tigers), Zac Hosking (Broncos), Jack Cogger (Huddersfield).
Out: Apisai Koroisau (Wests Tigers), Viliame Kikau (Bulldogs), Isaiya Katoa (Dolphins), Robert Jennings (Dolphins), J'maine Hopgood (Eels), Sean O'Sullivan (Dolphins), Charlie Staines (Wests Tigers), Christian Crichton (unsigned).
Rather than a single player as such, the Panthers’ biggest strength is their depth. Alongside superstars of the game such as Nathan Cleary, the Panthers have shown that they can reliably draw from their development structures and fit them into their well-oiled machine.
Having a side capable of taking three premierships at three levels is a huge credit to just how much work Penrith have put towards their development pathways.
It also doesn’t hurt them to have Origin and International stars such as Brian To’o, Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.
The biggest downside of being a side that’s so successful is the pressure to live up to their preseason predictions.
For a side with the pure amount of talent, another year of almost perfection is required to live up to their preseason hype.
With a tough schedule, Penrith needs to come out on top from the very beginning, and leave little room for doubt in their quest to win a third straight premiership.
With Api Koroisau leaving the club for their fellow western Sydney rivals, Penrith needs a new star at the hooker position.
Soni Luke showed plenty of promise last year, and taking the hooker position full-time should be what he needs to take his game to another level.
Despite losing stars, Penrith should be able to rely on new signings, and a strong development pathway to fill the gaps caused by this past offseason.
Another strong season should be expected as they aim to defend their title.
Ladder Prediction: 1st