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NRL 2023: Penrith Panthers chasing historic premiership three-peat, Pre-Season challenge, how to watch, season preview

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The all-conquering Penrith Panthers are determined to make rugby league history in 2023 by becoming the first team in 40 years to win three premierships in a row.

The Panthers went back-to-back last year and have now set their sights on achieving an historic three-peat.

Not since Peter Sterling’s Parramatta Eels in 1981-83 has a team won three consecutive premierships and no side has managed the feat in the NRL era.

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The Brisbane Broncos (1997-98) and Sydney Roosters (2018-2019) are the most recent teams to go gone back-to-back and the Panthers have made no secret of their desire to go one better.

“I definitely think it’s a bit of motivation,” Panthers co-captain Isaah Yeo told news.com.au of the prospect of a rare three-peat.

“It was discussed at the start of pre-season that we’ve obviously got that opportunity.

“There’s not many clubs in the NRL era that have had that opportunity to go three in a row and no one’s been able to do it. It’s obviously hard for a reason but all we can do is give ourselves the best opportunity at the back end of the season.

“That starts with a good pre-season then making sure we take it week by week, which is a cliche but something we’ve done really well over the last few seasons.

“The way we prepare, keeping each other accountable and respecting the opposition — I feel like we do those three things really well.”

Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards added: “We want to win again. To win again would be something special.

“Everyone’s still really hungry and eager to learn. If you want to keep improving that’s a good sign.”

Sustained success can make even great teams lose the hunger to win but Yeo said there’s no chance Penrith will take their foot off the pedal this year.

“I feel like that’s what makes the group so good,” he said.

“The fact we’re able to do that after success. You don’t win two in a row if you have that sense of complacency. But we don’t have that. It’s not a concern.

“It’s a long way away yet but pre-season’s been really hard and I don’t see any sense of complacency. I like to think that’s not the case.”

Panthers legend and Fox League commentator Greg Alexander sees no reason by his former side can’t three-peat.

“I haven’t seen anything during the off-season to suggest that they’ve lost that determination and drive that you need to win a comp,” Alexander told news.com.au.

“When you look at that big gap when no one was able to go back-to-back between the Broncos and the Roosters in 18-19, there was just that one per cent of something missing.

“Whether it was the desire, I don’t think that will be the issue for the Panthers. It’s a very professional group of senior players that drive the culture at the club, which filters down right throughout. So anything’s possible.

“If you want it badly enough, you’ve got the talent to do it. There’s no reason why it can’t happen.”

Alexander said he would be “silly not to” pick the Panthers to win the premiership and backed halfback Nathan Cleary to set the standard.

“Lots can happen in a long hard season,” he said.

“There’s rep footy to consider, there’s a whole lot of things that can play a part in Penrith winning or not winning. But if all’s equal and they keep their key players on the field, they’ll be hard to beat again.”

“I’m confident their won’t be that one per cent of drive missing because Nathan is the sort of player who doesn’t even think about that one per cent.”

The Panthers have lost hooker Api Koroisau to the Tigers and back-rower Viliame Kikau to the Bulldogs, but are confident Mitch Kenny and new recruits Zac Hosking and Luke Garner can be capable replacements.

Penrith will get its first hit out in the new look Pre-Season Challenge, which kicks off on Thursday. The winner will pick up a cool $100,000 for their troubles.

The Panthers will also take on Super League champions St Helens in the World Cup Challenge on Saturday 18 February

The winner of that clash will also claim $100,000, meaning the Panthers could feasibly be $200,000 richer by the end of pre-season action.

Watch the new look NRL Pre-Season exclusive to Fox League available on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

Story Credit: news.com.au

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