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NRL 2022: Penrith Panthers season review

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Penrith have etched their name in the history books, winning their second-straight NRL premiership after a convincing win over Parramatta.

Losing just four games all year, Ivan Cleary took his side towards glory and they rarely looked in doubt when it came to defending their title.

Did the Panthers over-deliver or under-deliver in 2022?

Anything short of winning the premiership would have been a failure for the Panthers – but the way in which they triumphed in the decider means they OVER-DELIVERED in 2022.

Penrith lost just four games in the regular season, but it was their performances at the business-end of the year that most people will look back at.

Two convincing victories over Parramatta and South Sydney booked their spot in the grand final, before an incredible first-half display on the first weekend of October saw them lift their second-straight Provan-Summons Trophy.

When did it fall apart?

Remarkably, Penrith never went on a losing streak in 2022 of any kind and they won the competition, so it never really fell apart for them this year.

Losses to the Eels, Storm and Cowboys were all immediately followed up by wins, in what was a dominant season for Ivan Cleary’s men.

The two-regular season defeats to the Eels were far from ideal, but ultimately, they claimed the most important win against their western Sydney rivals – the grand final.

The best period to be a Panthers fan

There was never a bad period to be a Penrith fan this year, losing just four games and taking out the grand final in dominant fashion.

Ivan Cleary’s side flew through the finals series, recording big wins over Parramatta and South Sydney, before backing it up in the decider with a 16-point win over the Eels.

Their performance against their western Sydney rivals in the decider was as good as they have played in this entire three-year run of excellence.

Shining light: Dylan Edwards

Is Nathan Cleary the best player at the Panthers (and arguably in the entire NRL)? Yes.

But this season, Dylan Edwards is most deserving of the plaudits for the Panthers.

The reliable fullback averaged 223 run metres per game this year, as well as breaking a total of 126 tackles, scoring nine tries and producing seven try assists.

Edwards’ season would culminate with a Clive Churchill Medal for his standout performance in the grand final against Parramatta, and his cover tackle on Bailey Simonsson will be replayed in highlight reels for decades.

Will the Panthers improve in 2023?

When you’re the best team in the competition, it’s so hard to improve year on year.

With the loss of Origin hooker Apisai Koroisau and Fijian enforcer Viliame Kikau, it will certainly be a challenge to improve on their impeccably high standards in 2023.

However, with Nathan Cleary still in the side, there should be no major cause for concern.

Having the game’s best halfback alongside an elite five-eighth like Jarome Luai, with the ever-consistent Dylan Edwards at the back, will keep Penrith in good stead.

Assuming they continue to recruit and promote from their junior team well – as they have with the likes of Taylan May and Izack Tago – we can expect the Panthers to challenge for a third consecutive premiership.

Panthers player movements 2023

Gains

Luke Garner

Losses

J’maine Hopgood, Robert Jennings, Viliame Kikau, Apisai Koroisau, Sean O’Sullivan

Unsigned

Christian Crichton, Matthew Eisenhuth, Kurt Falls, Jaeman Salmon

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