Time to show Panthers respect as top team of current era

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The current success being experienced by the Penrith Panthers already marks a golden period for the club, but a win in Sunday’s Grand Final against the Eels will confirm their status as one of the great clubs of the modern era.

It will be time for the mainstream rugby league media to talk about Penrith on the same level they do as the Roosters and Storm, not have them one rung lower on the ladder as they tend to now.

Penrith is now the NRL’s powerhouse club. They’re on the verge of becoming just the second club in the NRL era to win back-to-back titles. They’re selling out home games consistently, and boast some of the game’s best players.

And what about the production line? Titles this year in the NSW Cup, Jersey Flegg an SG Ball.

Rugby league’s sleeping giant is well and truly awake.

And history will show this period of success was even more remarkable given what the game and the world was going through at the time.

In 2020, the Panthers finished Minor Premiers and reached the Grand Final despite the enormous disruption presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panthers fans in full voice. Photo: NRL Images.

In 2021, COVID again reared its head, and Penrith again rose above the disruption of the entire competition moving to Queensland to go on and win the Premiership.

History will show it was one of the toughest Premiership runs in history, with a first-up loss to Souths in the Finals forcing Ivan Cleary’s side to do it the hard way.

Despite being battered and bruised by injury, the Panthers forced their way in to the Grand Final and won one of the great season deciders.

And now, in 2022, Penrith have produced one of the more remarkable Premiership defences we’ve ever seen, easily claiming the Minor Premiership, navigating a tough representative period and confirming the status of players like Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards and Isaah Yeo as some of the modern day rugby league greats.

They now face arch rivals Parramatta in a Grand Final for the ages; an opportunity to cement themselves as one of the greatest sides rugby league has ever seen.

And at the top of the tree is a father-son duo whose impact on Penrith is already at legendary status and will forever remain in club folklore.

Nathan and Ivan Cleary with the 2021 NRL trophy. Photo: NRL Photos.

This Penrith team has already achieved so much. Victory or defeat on Sunday night will certainly not define this era, but it does offer the potential to officially cement a golden period never before experienced at the foot of the Mountains.

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