Penrith found its way to a third premiership in its NRL history last season and there are a host of reasons it can make it number four in 2022.
Ivan Cleary now knows what it takes to coach a team that goes all the way and his guidance will be crucial again this season.
NRL Premiership Prediction
If winning a premiership by attrition needed to be defined, it would have the Penrith Panthers 2022 final series adjacent.
Battle hardened, bruise riddled and gasping for air as the lactic acid built up in the last moments of the grand final last season showed us how much grit this Panthers team is made up of.
Ivan Cleary had to guide his men through a gruelling preliminary final against Melbourne and then extracted revenge on the South Sydney Rabbitohs after being defeated by them in the qualifying.
Doing it the hard way would have taught this talent-laden Panthers squad about how to stand up in the face of adversity – it is a quality all premiership teams have.
The young Panthers might have been forgiven for falling short at the final hurdle, but they fought on and their development will have been profound.
However, Clearly is going to have to do some moving and shifting on the whiteboard with grand final centre duo Matt Burton (Bulldogs) and Paul Momirovski (Roosters) having moved on.
They should have adequate cover with Stephen Crichton heading into that role through the middle, which is arguably his preferred area on the ground.
There is obviously going to be a big query on how Nathan Cleary pulls up from shoulder surgery, but all reports from the Panthers camp are that he is dealing with knocks and bumps to that area quite well.
With Clearly on track for a miraculous recovery from a serious operation, expect he and his troops to set the tone early in the season.
His ability to break tackles, set up the play and score points at will is what makes this Panthers team so dangerous.
Penrith led the league for tackle breaks last season with an average of 35 per game and launched their way through opposition defence last season.
The Panthers recorded an incredible 239.7 meters gained per game from opposition kicks (ranked first in the NRL) which was 17 metres superior to the Rabbitohs who ranked second for that stat.
Then you look at how many metres gained in each game and you see where the Panthers really have a strangle hold on the competition with their ability to plow their way to the try-line.
Penrith’s run metres for 2021 were 1,805 metres per game with a gulf between them and second-place South Sydney for that particular facet of the game.
It is these competitive advantages and inches that a team like the Panthers just make the most of in every single outing.
It is why they are considered the best in the league.
The scary thing about Penrith is, even though it is has lost a handful of experienced heads, their young brigade will only elevate to another level with natural development.
Write this team off at your own peril.