Penrith Panthers 2024 season preview

Penrith Panthers 2024 season preview

2023 recap

The Panthers cemented their status as one of the all-time great sides with their third straight Premiership in 2023.

The season didn’t start off too well – a home defeat to St Helens in the World Club Challenge was followed by two defeats in the opening three NRL games against Brisbane and Parramatta. However, it didn’t take long for Penrith to start motoring, and they only lost four out of the next 21 games to claim the Minor Premiership and a home qualifying final.

They comfortably saw off the Warriors in week one with a 32-6 win, and they followed it up a couple of weeks later with a 38-4 demolition of the Storm to book their fourth straight Grand Final appearance.

The Broncos proved worthy opposition in Sydney, but the Panthers produced the biggest comeback in Grand Final history to win 26-24, after trailing by 16 points midway through the second half.

2023 position: 1st

Key signings

Paul Alamoti (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Daine Laurie (Wests Tigers), Riley Price (North Queensland Cowboys), Brad Schneider (Hull KR)

Key departures

Jack Cogger (Newcastle Knights), Stephen Crichton (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Zac Hosking (Canberra Raiders), Tom Jenkins (Newcastle Knights), Spencer Leniu (Sydney Roosters), Jaeman Salmon (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

Players to watch

Taylan May is back after missing the entire NRL season in 2023 with an ACL. If this year’s World Club Challenge is anything to go by, then he’ll be starting in the centres in 2024, and with Stephen Crichton now gone, he has huge boots to fill.

If you don’t consider Nathan Cleary to be the world’s best halfback, then he’s almost certainly in your top two. Penrith’s number seven has done almost everything in the game – three Premierships, three Minor Premierships, three State of Origin wins and a World Cup are all on his CV. When the Panthers are purring, it’s usually because Cleary’s making them tick, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him add a Dally M to his ever-growing honours list in 2024.

Young gun

With Jarome Luai heading off at the end of 2024, Jack Cole has a chance to stake his claim for the number six jersey this year. With Luai missing for the WCC in England last weekend, Cole got the nod and the 20-year-old put in an assured performance despite the loss to Wigan. Luai will more than likely remain the first choice when he’s fit, but Cole needs to take any chances he gets if he’s to claim that five-eighth spot for 2025 and beyond.

Our prediction – 1st

Despite some key losses in the off-season, I still can’t see anyone knocking Penrith off their perch. Stephen Crichton will be a major loss, but I thought the same 12 months ago when Viliame Kikau left and the Panthers didn’t skip a beat without him. In Nathan Cleary, they have the game’s best player in my opinion, and with the likes of Dylan Edwards and Liam Martin growing year on year, there are very few chinks in the Panthers’ armour. They won’t have it all their own way, as Wigan showed in the WCC, but over the course of a whole season, the Panthers just have more about them than any other side in the NRL.

Darren Notley

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