After losing the 2020 NRL Grand Final the big question hovering over the Penrith Panthers last year was whether or not they could go one better. Could they overcome the Melbourne Storm and survive the 2021 season knowing that everyone considered them a true title contender.
The Panthers stood tall and prove they had what it takes. Another great season, they beat all the top contenders and claimed the 2021 NRL Grand Final.
Now the big question is, can the Panthers go back-to back?
The Panthers are one of the favourites for the 2022 NRL titles on sites like betstation.com and most consider their main rivals to be the Melbourne Storm, the Parramatta Eels and possibly the Sydney Roosters.
The hardest part of winning back-toi-back titles in the NRL simply comes down to the grind. To play an entire season, through the trial games, the regular season, having your best players involved in the State Of Origin series, then the NRL Finals series followed then by your best players once again being involved in test matches, its a lot of football and eventually it tends to wear teams down.
Here is where the Panthers have a few things going their way…
First of all, this is a very young Panthers team. Most title winning teams have a higher average age across their squad, but particularly across their most important players. Late 20’s to early 30’s. This Penrith Panthers side is driven mostly by players that are under the age of 25. Thats absolutely insane! We have rarely seen that before.
That means the general grind of a foot career hasn’t really hit the majority of the Panthers squad as it normally does with a title winning side. Put simply, they’re running on young legs.
Then we have the lack of international football over the last couple of years. This has allowed the Panthers (And everyone else!) to get long, full off seasons under their belt. This can’t be underestimated at all. The schedule for an elite Grand Final winning player is normally very condensed at the end of the year. The Panthers haven’t had that problem.
Couple all of this with the Panthers incredible depth of talent at the club, their style of play particularly in the forwards, and their amazing defense, and the Panthers are well set to be one of the top teams again this year, and they will be hard to beat!
Now, what works against the Panthers this year? Complacency has to be considered. They climbed the mountain….have they enjoyed the view from the top for too long or will they be ready to start from scratch once again. Honestly, you can never tell until the season is well underway.
Have opposition teams got better?
Their Grand Final opponent in South Sydney has taken a step backwards just by losing Adam Reynolds. The Parramatta Eels seem more hungry than ever, so expect them to maybe be a bit better. The Melbourne Storm are the Melbourne Storm…they will always be hard to beat. Then you have to wonder where the Sydney Roosters will be if they can get their injury problems under control finally.
On the flip side, will the Panthers be a better or worse team than last year?
They lost a little depth, but they should be able to overcome that. They kept all of their key players from last years Premiership winning side.
You’d expect Nathan Cleary to continue his development. He is already the best halfback in the game. Will he get even better? I think we will see Jarome Luai improve quite a lot from last season. One key player the club is probably hoping to see improvement from is Mitchell Kenny, as I feel that Apisai Koroisau wasn’t great towards the end of last season and his time at the club is coming to an end.
If the Panthers maintain their form from last year, they will be hard to beat. If they improve….wow….
So the Panthers are pretty well placed to go for back-to-back titles. With the season about to kick off, Panthers fans can be excited that they have a premiership winning squad ready to take on the NRL as the best team in the competition.
I can’t wait to see how this all plays out!