Don’t have the detractors fool you, nor let the naysayers sway your thoughts – On-field success remains real at the Penrith Panthers in 2018.
Heralded as one of the biggest – and best – junior rugby league development areas, the labour of the Panthers’ work at the foot of the mountains is there for all to see this season.
Instilling a bottom-to-top approach, the ‘development club’ of the west has again proven itself to be a powerhouse, with all teams in NSW Rugby League competitions rounding out their regular seasons inside the respective grade’s top four teams.
Perhaps, most importantly, the Panthers’ NRL squad has qualified for the finals series for a third-consecutive year.
Defending champions in the Intrust Super Premiership, the Panthers secured the 2018 minor premiership with three rounds to play. This, despite a lack of continuity in key positions – the ISP Panthers have had six players make their NRL debut from the ISP this season, more than any other club in the competition.
Alike the club’s second-tier team, its Under-20 Jersey Flegg outfit is preparing for a Qualifying Final this weekend. In May, The Panthers’ Under-18s side took out the SG Ball competition this season, going on to win the National Under-18s final the next weekend.
St Marys - the Panthers' feeder club - are also enjoying a successful season, with the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield teams both heading into the finals sitting in the top four.
The Panthers will receive the Flowers Memorial Pennant at the NSWRL Grand Final Weekend for winning the Club Championship, awarded to the club with the highest aggregate of competition points across the eight NSWRL competitions.
The award made even more remarkable due to Penrith only having teams in six of the eight competitions.
“It speaks volumes about the club and the position that they’re in,” NRL five-eighth James Maloney tells NSWRL.com.au of the Panthers’ success this season.
“They’re a club that’s very financially successful, has first class facilities, and everyone probably understands the pool of players and talent that’s running around in the Penrith area.
“The success that Penrith are having from such a young age group all the way through just says the club is doing a lot right and heading in the right direction.
“It’s a great position to be in and a great time for the club.”
The key to the Panthers’ success is simple: Do the same things – at all grades – and do them well.
“They’ve got coaches that try and coach the same system all the way through,” Maloney says.
“Kids are experiencing the systems from a young age and they know where they’re at, and the coaching philosophise are the same and I think that’s really good.
“Hopefully that leads to continued success and a really strong Panthers club which is great for footy and great for Western Sydney.”
The NRL Panthers will be hoping they find success at the turn of the finals series. Key in that, is Maloney, who is set to return to action after an injury lay-off.
“We’ve probably got the perfect [finals] dress rehearsal this week, Melbourne in Melbourne,” Maloney says.
“It’s a big game for them sending Billy (Slater) off, it’s probably just what we want it will be a semi-final atmosphere and a good solid hit-out.
“Hopefully we take some really good steps in the right direction so that you will bounce into next week with plenty of confidence that you’ll play well.”
See the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Penrith Panthers take on the Canterbury Bankstown in the first Qualifying Final! Live on Channel 9 and 9Now, 1pm Saturday 1 September (AEST, Check local guides).