Penrith seem destined to secure their first minor premiership in 17 years despite playing just six games at Panthers Stadium this year.
It’s the fewest home matches the side has played at Panthers Stadium in a season after COVID-19 restrictions forced the side to play home games at Campbelltown Stadium and Kogarah Oval.
Ivan Cleary’s side played their first home game of the year against the Roosters at Panthers Stadium but did not return until July 19 against the Cowboys.
Incredibly, the side won all matches at its temporary homes.
And while the revised NRL competition changed the amount of travel teams undertook in a season, the Panthers will will spend plenty of time on the road over the next month.
The side will travel to Brisbane this week to take on the Broncos and Townsville in a fortnight to play the Cowboys.
By the end of the season they would have travelled to Queensland more than top four rivals Parramatta and the same amount of times as the Roosters.
What makes the likely minor premiership even more impressive is that Penrith has achieved it despite one of the youngest rosters in the competition, and while dealing with injury and suspension.
Fullback Dylan Edwards missed half the season through injury while Brian To’o has only just returned from an extended lay-off. Dean Whare remains out of the side and new recruit Kurt Capewell has struggled to get on the field.
Meantime Api Koroisau, Zane Tetevano, Charlie Staines and Viliame Kikau have all had injury setbacks through the season.
Halfback Nathan Cleary missed the first two games back from lockdown after the TikTok fiasco while Kikau was suspended for last week’s match against Wests Tigers.
In other news, the limited tickets available to next Friday night’s blockbuster against Parramatta sold out in record time today. Members who missed out will have the value of the game credited to their membership.
And Penrith has received a massive boost with news that they won’t be forced to play away from Penrith in week one of the Finals despite COVID-19 restrictions.
If the Panthers secure a Home Final, it’ll be played at Panthers Stadium – but it’s possible just 3,500 tickets will be available, likely making it the hottest ticket in town, particularly given opposition fans will also be given a chance to attend.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.