Ivan Cleary’s Penrith has the talent to go all the way this year. But the failures of 2020 may still linger.
So near yet so far for the Panthers last year – can they rise to the challenge again?
RECRUITMENT: Ivan Cleary has freshened up his squad, moving on veterans James Tamou, Josn Mansour, Zane Tetevano and Dean Whare and bringing in the likes of Matthew Eisenhuth, Robert Jennings, Paul Momirovski and Jaeman Salmon. If anything, they are stronger than last year.
STRENGTHS: A well balanced squad, two quick-fire halves in Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai and some great kids coming through.
WEAKNESSES: The Panthers have the talent to make the grand final again, but head games loom as their greatest danger. After playing so well all last season, they were poor in the big one – and that will play with their minds for a long time to come.
MAN UNDER PRESSURE: Brent Naden is a superb young talent in the centres, but he has to win back the trust of his team-mates and the fans after his cocaine confession after the grand final.
ONE TO WATCH: Stephen Crichton was just one of a host of young Panthers to emerge onto the NRL scene last season – the experience he gained in the big games should see his game go to another level.
WHAT THE BOOKIES SAY: To win comp $5, to make finals $1.12 (via Sportsbet) WHAT MOLEY SAYS: The Panthers ambushed plenty of teams last year and should really have won the comp – but will do it tougher this time around with rivals wary of how good a team they really are. Should still make top four and could do anything from there.