‘Can’t see it ending’: Why the Panthers can dominate for years to come

Departing hooker Api Koroisau predicted Penrith would continue dominating the NRL without him as the Panthers aim to become the first club to complete a premiership three-peat in 40 years.

By Brad Walter, NRL Senior Reporter

After thrashing Parramatta 28-12 to retain the Provan-Summons Trophy and winning the National Championship final, as well as the Jersey Flegg and SG Ball grand finals, the Panthers are creating a dynasty that has no end in sight.

“I can’t see it ending any time soon,” Koroisau said. “They have won four grades this year so with the crop of kids coming through they are in really safe hands.

“They have got a great coach at the helm too and they have locked in some really great players so I think these guys are going to sweet for a long time.”

Koroisau and fellow Fiji international Viliame Kikau are the only members of the team which blew the Eels off the park on Sunday night who won’t be returning to Penrith after the World Cup.

However, Mitch Kenny has shown during the finals series that he is ready to take over the No.9 jersey from Koroisau, while the Panthers have signed Wests Tigers second-rower Luke Garner as a replacement for Kikau.

Then there is the conveyor belt of talent being produced by Penrith after the club implemented a deliberate strategy to capitalise on the game’s largest junior nursery and develop players from west of the Blue Mountains.

“What you see in this room tonight is the vindication of a lot of hard work that has been done by a lot of people over a long period of time,” Penrith District RLFC CEO Matt Cameron said.

“You don’t win four competitions without good planning, good structures and good people.”
Matt Cameron

“We are fortunate that we have got a big district, we have got a lot of kids naturally and we are fortunate that Bathurst is two hours over the hill. There’s country kids in this team and there is another half a dozen of them in the NSW Cup team that won today.”

The Panthers are set to have the largest representation of any NRL club at the World Cup, with up to 20 players set to fly to England this week to play for Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Italy and Lebanon.

However, the depth of talent in Penrith’s ranks hasn’t occurred by accident and it is only now that the club is seeing the benefits of investing in development.

“At our club we have got a commitment to fostering rugby league in the district so the two things go hand in hand, but we have got great support from the administrators and the board of our club,” Cameron said.

“When you go and spend money on development programs that doesn’t drive revenue back to the club, but what it does is identify kids who are going to end up being future first graders.

“You have got to spend a dollar to make a dollar in rugby league, you can’t run it like BHP. It takes a commitment by a group of people to stay the course and I think it happens a little too much in footy where sometimes people get a bit skittish, and they don’t stay the course.

“If you have got a five-year plan, have the gumption to stick to your five-year plan. I am not saying that we are perfect, but we had a clear strategy – and that wasn’t a five-year plan – of what we wanted to do and through the support of a lot of people this is what we have achieved.”

The system also encourages loyalty that enables Penrith to keep players the club has produced for less than what they could earn elsewhere but some players like Koroisau and Kikau still need to move on because of the salary cap.

However, when that happens, the Panthers usually have a ready made replacement in the wings, as Izack Tago and Taylan May demonstrated this season when they stepped up to take over from Matt Burton and Paul Momirovski.

Koroisau, who is joining Wests Tigers, said Kenny was ready to take his place after setting the tone in the grand final with his defence while the NSW Origin star watched from the interchange.

“Mitch knew his role when he got out there. I call him a kamikaze. He just goes out there and puts his body on the line, with no self-preservation,” Koroisau said.

“That is why he is in this team and that is why he was starting tonight. He is an incredible player and I think the No.9 is safe for next year.

“I had massive wraps on Mitch Kenny and Moses Leota for the way they were really putting their shoulders into the other team. We were going after them and just to watch that from the sideline was incredible. I knew we were on from the get-go.”