This week I’m going to take a look at three reasons why the Panthers can three-peat in 2023 and three reasons why they can’t.
Now while the sample size is admittedly small, there’s no point in writing this with five rounds to go. I’ll make a case for both arguments and then like a jury, you can read all the evidence and make your own decision.
Let’s start with, why they can win a third premiership in-a-row.
1. The majority of the key players from the last two seasons are there. Dylan Edwards, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and James Fisher-Harris to name but a few. Players of this calibre in such key positions don’t come along very often and they haven’t become bad players during the off-season.
2. The Panthers’ defence is like a brick wall. Going back to the World Club Challenge match against St Helens, Penrith have not conceded more than two tries to the opposition and have lost all their matches by a single point. Remember Premierships are built on defence, the attack will come.
3. Head coach Ivan Cleary is still in charge. Sure, he has two new assistants but Cleary is very experienced having just coached his 400th NRL game. This is not some rookie coach who can’t handle adversity, Ivan has been through it all and he knows how to get the best out of his superstar son Nathan and the players around him.
Now let’s look at three reasons why the Panthers can’t win a third premiership.
1. Two key players from the last two premierships are not there. The team looks like they miss Viliame Kikau’s power running and silky ball skills on the edge. There’s simply no punch there with Luke Garner. It’s also blindingly obvious that the side is struggling to cover the loss of Api Koroisau. Mitch Kenny, while a great defender, offers nothing in attack. Soni Luke may have to up his minutes when he returns.
2. While defence is important, you still have to have enough attack to outscore the opposition. Penrith’s attack so far this season has looked pedestrian, disjointed and slow. It really needs to click, sooner rather than later.
3. Ivan has two new assistant coaches. While it’s not fair to lay the blame all on Peter Wallace and Ben Gardiner, they need to bring more to the table. Last year both Cameron Ciraldo and Andrew Webster were awarded two head coaching roles for helping the Panthers win a premiership.
Over to you Panthers fans.
Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.