The Penrith Panthers have won three competitions on the hop, and there is little doubt they enter the 2024 season as one of the teams primed to be in the mix yet again.

Ivan Cleary's side almost fell short in the 2024 grand final, but, as they have done time and time again over the last four seasons, found a way to get the job done and lift the premiership yet again.

The club come into 2024 with another key out as Stephen Crichton heads off to the Canterbury Bulldogs, and will spend the season preparing for another one with Jarome Luai already signing elsewhere for 2025.

But it hasn't stopped the men from the foot of the mountains in the last couple of years and is unlikely to slow them down significantly this time around.

Here are the key questions that will define the road ahead for Ivan Cleary's side.

2. Who plays as the backup half?

The last two seasons have seen first Sean O'Sullivan, and then Jack Cogger step into the halves on various occasions to fill in for either Nathan Cleary or Jarome Luai with success.

O'Sullivan's departure to the Dolphins at the end of 2022 though has been matched with Cogger's at the end of 2023, with the half heading to the Newcastle Knights on a long-term deal.

But heading into 2024, there is no clear-cut first option to take over the number one backup in the halves, with Penrith having their own young internal option of Jack Cole joined by recent signings Brad Schneider and Daine Laurie.

What is clear is that if they need a halfback, it'll be Schneider, who arrives from the Canberra Raiders via England and has impressed in his limited opportunities to date.

He has signed a two-year deal as well and will be out to make a name for himself over the next 24 months learning from Cleary.

At number six, Schneider is a chance too, but with Jarome Luai to depart the club at the end of 2024, the Panthers need to start moving their energy and attention to who will be his long-term replacement.

While they could yet sign a player from outside the club - think a player like Adam Doueihi - that would seemingly be a poor use of the salary cap given Cole is the future, and Laurie has impressed at fullback with the Tigers before struggling throughout 2023 and spending time in the number six.

The role of replacing Luai and Cleary at Origin, or around injuries, is a critical one, so Ivan Cleary faces a few bigger headaches than this in 2024.