Penrith’s draw looks full of highlights and key games, but we’ve singled out five matches we believe are the not-to-be-missed showdowns in 2023.
Opening day: Panthers v Broncos
There is nothing quite like the first game of the new season and for Penrith fans it comes against Brisbane at BlueBet Stadium on Friday, March 3 at 8.05pm.
Tell your boss you’re knocking off early so you’ve got plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere at the club before heading across to the game.
The two clubs have met 40 times since the NRL was formed in 1998 with Brisbane winning 23 of those encounters, Penrith 16 and one draw being thrown in. But Penrith have held the wood over the Broncos in recent times – in fact you have to go all the way back to August 2019 to find the last time Brisbane got the chocolates.
With the Broncos desperate to get their season underway with a win given last year’s spectacular fall from the top eight before the Finals, and the Panthers keen to put the World Club Challenge loss behind them, this promises to be a blockbuster Friday night showdown.
Parra seeks revenge: Panthers v Eels
All eyes will be on CommBank Stadium in Parramatta on Thursday, March 23 when 2022 Grand Finalists Penrith and Parramatta meet for the first time since last year’s Grand Final (excluding a pre-season trial).
These matches are always billed as Grand Final re-matches, a chance for the losing side to get one over the team that claimed the trophy on the biggest day.
This western Sydney rivalry has only grown in recent years, reaching fever pitch when the two sides clashed at Accor Stadium in October last year.
The Panthers, fresh from a round three bye, will be keen to rub salt into Parramatta’s wounds.
Grand Final preview: Panthers v Roosters
If you follow the betting markets and believe the experts, the Panthers and Roosters are every chance of clashing in this year’s Grand Final.
Many believe it is the Roosters who hold the key to dismantling the success Penrith has built in previous years.
That makes the Round 11 clash between the two sides at BlueBet Stadium on Friday, May 12 one of the most anticipated matches of the season.
The corresponding game last year wasn’t without controversy, adding a bit of extra spite to the Trent Robinson v Ivan Cleary rivalry.
If all has gone as planned in the opening few months of the season, there’s every chance this will be a top of the table clash – just as the weather starts to get a touch colder.
First time meeting: Panthers v Dolphins
By the time the Panthers and Dolphins meet on Sunday, July 16 in Redcliffe we’ll know how the NRL newcomers have performed this year under Wayne Bennett, but it won’t take anything away from the interest surrounding this one.
It’ll be the first meeting between Penrith and the Dolphins, a slice of history in its own right.
And it’ll reignite the battle between Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and Bennett, which reached new heights during the 2021 season and leading up to the Grand Final.
Grudge match: Panthers v Bulldogs
Fans will have to wait until Sunday, July 23 for the Panthers to tackle Canterbury at BlueBet Stadium – and what a reception it’ll be for Gus Gould’s new team.
While Penrith fans adore Viliame Kikau, there’s no doubt he’ll be shown very little love on this Sunday afternoon in the depths of winter.
Penrith fans have a newfound hatred for Canterbury, driven by Gould’s big-time recruitment of Penrith talent, including assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo and centre Stephen Crichton, who will join the club next year.
Get ready for a good old fashioned grudge match as the NRL’s newest rivalry goes off.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.