PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: Dylan Edwards of the Panthers looks dejected during the round four NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Wests Tigers at Panthers Stadium on April 05, 2019 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

If you are not from Sydney and have never visited Penrith, you should. It is a ripping place with great people, growing infrastructure and is blessed with the wide open spaces so infrequently found across Australia’s most populated city.

A family drive to the foot of the mountains, a picnic by the Nepean River and a cleverly co-ordinated trip to Panthers Stadium to watch the local NRL team go round, is highly recommended.

Some younger NRL fans are probably unaware of the Panthers’ relatively short existence in the NSWRL/ARL and NRL competitions. Whilst South Sydney, Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers can call on near a century of memories and history, the Panthers are roughly half their age.

The club won five games in its inaugural year in 1967 and finished between 8th and 12th on the premiership ladder in each of its first 17 seasons. Soon after and with increasing on-field success, the club morphed into the more modern Panthers; somewhat symbolic of the growth in the area and the urban sprawl that saw the city centre become a hub of community activity.

Penrith’s 18th season (1984), saw the club achieve its best ever finish (7th). The following season would see the ‘Penny Panthers’ in the finals for the first time. The now veteran coach Tim Sheens was at the helm during that period and Ron Willey parlayed those first successes into finals’ appearances in 1988 and 1989.

Phil Gould took the reins in 1990 and after a grand final loss in his first season, produced the elusive premiership title the following year.

With a growing population, the newly successful team and talent to burn in the masses of young boys playing the game in the local junior competition, the future of the Panthers appeared limitless.

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That talent was unquestionable. Names like Brad Fittler, Greg Alexander, Mark Geyer and Luke Lewis became household; just a few of the scores of young men from the region who left their permanent mark on the domestic game.

Sadly, there was to be something on an extended hang-over period post-1991 and one could easily be fooled for thinking that the chocolate soldiers are still to fully emerge from the celebrations of the clubs’ most famous day.

Despite the seemingly logically ascension to powerhouse status in Australian rugby league; riding a wave of local juniors, a powerful leagues club and increased corporate appeal, the Penrith Panthers have not achieved the sustained success for which their fans had hoped and opposition clubs had feared.

Since 1991, 27 years of first-grade football have been played. The Panthers’ record of one premiership (2003), two preliminary finals and an overall nine finals appearances is not something of which to write home.

Wooden spoons in 2001 and 2007 brought back memories of those dark, early days. Aside from the powerful premiership winning side of 2003 and a solid title defence in 2004 under the guidance of John Lang, the last quarter of a century has not played out as many predicted.

Matthew Elliott and Ivan Cleary failed to unlock the mystery and in 2011 the club brought back the enigmatic Phil Gould. As General Manager, Gould was charged with overseeing the day to day running of football operations.

Surely, the right pieces of the puzzle had finally been gathered? After just one semi-final appearance under Elliott, he departed. No doubt the new Gould-Cleary partnership would be a line in the sand moment for the club.

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Sadly, after just one finals appearance during Cleary’s rein, Gould made the tough call on him and Anthony Griffin became the man in one of the hottest seats in the NRL.

The 2016 Opening of the A$22 million Panthers’ Rugby League Academy coincided with Griffin’s arrival. It was something of a symbolic representation of the potential power of the club; to be achieved via the immense rugby league nursery within the area.

Personally, if I was a Panthers fan I’d be quite sick of hearing about it. For decades we have heard about the strength of the junior talent pool, yet having first dibs on that talent and selecting and retaining the best of it has proven difficult.

As such, and despite three finals appearances under Griffin, nothing appeared to have changed. Little more than a middle-of-the-table side, the Panthers continued to fall well short of high expectations. Those expectations were based purely on a widely held assertion that they possessed a squad with premiership potential.

2019 has seen Cleary return, Gould depart and a diabolical start to the season. After five straight losses, the mountain men sit within a for-and-against point off the foot of the ladder.

As much as things change, they also appear to stay the same and another season of promise looks to have already slipped past the Penrith Panthers.

With the infrastructure in place, the talent available and the best minds involved, it appears there might be something fundamentally wrong in Penrith. If you work what it is, can you let us all know?

8 COMMENTS

  1. Penrith big problem is summed up with ease. They have tried to build a team almost entirely on local juniors and the imports that they have purchased are old and washed up. ALSO Cleary has been massively talked up and has relied to much on Maloney to guide him around the park with his great organisation. Cleary only played Origin last season because of Maloney alone. Maloney was the dominate half and Cleary did absolutely nothing in attack in last seasons Origin.

    Now Maloney is being shown the door and Cleary has no idea how to organise a football team because Maloney did the organisation. Cleary has been highly overrated by the media and Phil Gould can take a lot of that blame constantly talking up his credentials on TV. Kids believe all the hype they here now he can’t produce.

    Penriths other problem was standing down Moylan during the semis and eventually sacking him then a year later the coach Griffin is fired after getting the team to the top eight. I’ve been following Rugby League for over 95 years and never can I remember a coach being sacked a few weeks out from the semis after being assured of a semi birth. Ridiculous and this has obviously caused division unrest and how can they trust a coach who told his previous team to get on the bus then gets off first stop out the buses back door. 💪🐔👍

    All I can say is Penrith has made the semis 13 times in 52 years. Hence the name CHOCOLATE SOLDIERS.
    One shining light coming out of Penrith and its beautiful district is that in the modern day era they have won two comps under the 6 tackle rule while soufffffffffffffs have won 1 since the modern day 6 tackle rule was introduced in 1972. 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣👍🐓🏆

    • soufffffffffffffffffffffffffs are forever in PENRITH CHOCOLATE SOLDIERS SHADOW…………..SHADOW💪🐔👍🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣

  2. The problem they have atm is the coach. He’s not that good. Paying overs for an average coach just to keep his son.
    Shafting Hook like they did has upset some players and was a stupid decision at the time. He got them into the finals ffs.
    Letting Trent Merrin go was another stupid decision. He was a vastly experienced player who could play prop or lock.
    They can’t do anything with the Clearys, so they better get some new support staff who have an idea on how to attack and defend.

    • Yes, I agree that it would have made more sense to get a tougher type of coach. Not Ivan again. With the money paid, they are now stuck with him.
      Des Hasler visited the club last year. It would have been cheaper to hire him. a better choice no doubt!
      How anyone can talk about Griffin, as if he was a good coach?
      He got players to want to leave, such as Peachey & Moylan. He didn’t work well with assistant coaches or take advice. Who can forget the 20 word game plan , photo copied & 1 given to each player.
      It would have made more sense to get a better coach than Griffin & not sign him up for an extra 2 years.
      They may have made the finals for each of the last 3 years. But when it came to playing teams with better packs & faster backs? They fell short every time.
      Would Griffin have done better this season as coach, after another end of year sell off of first graders , at the end of 2018? Don’t think so!
      Most clubs try to strengthen obvious weaknesses in the squad. Penrith certainly haven’t done that over many years.
      If they just had a big bag of money, to buy all the best players around & fudge the payments to those players. So they could stay under the cap? I’m sure they would have won a lot more games & premierships.
      However, has Cronulla Won a lot more Premierships? No…. Didn’t they come in at the same time as Penrith! Maybe they’ve made many more finals. In the end, it didn’t turn into Grand Final Wins for them either.

      • At least Cronulla have made 5 Grand Finals which equates to one every decade, Penrith have made a Grand Final once every 17 years on average. Which means you blokes are due big time 🤣😂🤣😂🤣👍 Cronulla got ripped off in 1978 the same way as the Roosters did in 1908 all because it was far to important to send a Kangaroo tour to mother England than focus on the pinnacle of our game. A grand final.💪🐔👍🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱🎱 Poor ol Sharks were forced to play 3 days later after a draw with half a team due to injury because they had to fly a “kangaroo” tour over to pommy land on a Wednesday.

        Chocolate Soldiers have always been a shambles since 1967💪🐔👉———-💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩💩

        • Try to talk up Cronulla all you like Wood Dust.
          How many have they Won?
          Right now, that would be One Grand Final!
          Had to get a few Panthers & Tigers in their team to manage that One Win. Plus plenty of refereeing assistance that year as well.
          Case Closed !
          🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷Here’s some French Flags for you , to go with your teams love of France ! If they had a lot of great & expensive players, Le Coq’s would buy a whole team of them as well,

        • Oh yes…
          Let’s not forget about the Sharks striving for performance excellence with Peptides & their dodgy salary cap dealings either. I’m sure their One Win was assisted with those things also.
          You’d be all for the Dodgy Dealings though Wood Pulp. As your Nuggets do the same thing all the time. That’s why they hired the two criminal back room guys. As they’re good at covering up illegal over payments!
          Sorry Cronulla fans. Nothing against your team really! Just using some well known if difficult to hear facts there .
          In the end you’ve got Nothing Wood Pulp!
          Unless Cronulla wins many more Grand Finals quickly.
          One Win is One Win!!!

  3. C0mberland is awaiting you. PANT.HER,18💪🐔👍😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣——🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡

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