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'We want to be the best team in the modern era': Panthers on NRL ambitions

By AAP
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Penrith have set their sights on becoming the most dominant team of the modern era after taking back-to-back NRL titles with their 28-12 win over Parramatta.

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Ivan Cleary told Penrith’s players last month they had the chance to be the greatest team in the modern era.

And after Sunday night’s back-to-back success was capped with sponsored beer goggles following the 28-12 demolition of Parramatta, Panthers players have already set their sights on more dominance.

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On three straight years of grand-final appearances alone, they can even now lay claim to be in the discussion for one of the NRL-era’s best teams.

Penrith have lost just 10 games in three seasons, averaging more than 26 points per game and conceding less than 13.

This year, they claimed every grade from the NRL down to under-18s, becoming the first club to do so in the game’s 115-season history.

History shows going back-to-back is rare. Prior to the Panthers, only the Sydney Roosters, in 2018-19, had achieved it since the Super League.

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No side, however, has won three straight titles in the past 40 seasons, with the great Parramatta team of the early 1980s the last to do so.

Penrith will start competition favourites as they set out to join them next year, and there is every chance their dynasty will last beyond that.

“We want to be the best team in the modern era,” utility Jaeman Salmon told AAP.

“And I think we’re on the way there. I can see (the success) keeping on going.

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“We wanted another one this year and it will be the same next year.”

Asked about the players’ desire to become that dominant side of the era, superstar five-eighth Jarome Luai agreed.

“Hell yeah we do,” Luai said.

“We’re winners man, that’s what we do. I hope it doesn’t stop any time soon.

“That’ll come with hard work. We’ve worked hard for several years, so whatever comes our way, I think we sort of deserve it.

“I’m part of a great team and I’m nothing without my teammates.”

That goal comes after Cleary reminded his players of what was at stake at last month’s presentation night.

At the time, he told them the label of greatest of this era would be no mean feat.

“I’ve always admired the big clubs,” Cleary told AAP after Sunday’s win.

“When I first came here, the Bulldogs were one of the big clubs in the NRL that we wanted to aspire to be,” Cleary said.

“And then recently Melbourne and the Roosters. I was like, ‘Wow, I’d love to be a club like that’.

“Where you’re successful each year and every now and then, you’re in a with a real shot to win it.

“But I still feel like it’s in the embryo stage with us.

“It’s never about one game or one season. That’s what I want Penrith to be and we’ve given ourselves a good foundation.”

There will however be challenges ahead.

While their pathways system is set up to fill gaps for exiting players, Api Koroisau’s energy from dummy-half will be hard to replace, as will Viliame Kikau’s power.

Assistants Andrew Webster and Cameron Ciraldo also leave to take charge of the Warriors and Canterbury respectively.

But the club’s $2.5 million annual investment on pathways continues to lead the way, giving them every chance for longer-term success.

“We’re trying to future-proof the club,” said Panthers CEO Matt Cameron.

“So five years or 10 years from now there’s systems in place that just continue to develop good young players and good young men to play for Penrith.

“We’re not claiming that we’re doing anything different at the moment. Other teams have gone back-to-back.

“But we’ve got sustained success at lower-grade levels, that I feel like we can just continue to develop and turn into first-graders.”

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