Everything went according to plan last year for the Panthers, and they successfully defended their 2021 Premiership. The Panthers were by far the best team in the league last season, and they only lost four games. They had the best points differential as well, at +306. Can the Panthers come back in 2023 and defend their crown once again?
The Panthers are looking for a three-peat this season, and seeing though they have won back-to-back premierships, it’s understandable that all the other teams in the NRL want a piece. The Panthers are the team that have lost the most key players this off-season. Despite all the key losses, they have also picked up a few replacements, which mainly come from the Tigers, both Luke Garner and Tyrone Peachey will be playing with the Panthers in 2023.
While the Panthers may have poached two players from the Tigers, the Tigers have poached two of the Panthers, and it was certainly the Tigers who come out victorious. The Panthers have lost Apisai Koroisau and Charlie Staines to the Tigers. The other major player to leave the club is Viliame Kikau, who joins the Bulldogs for the start of the 2023 season. They have also lost three players to the Dolphins; Isaiya Katoa, Robert Jennings and Sean O'Sullivan.
Ins: Luke Garner, Tyrone Peachey, Zac Hosking and Jack Cogger
Outs: Apisai Koroisau, Viliame Kikau, Isaiya Katoa, Robert Jennings, J'maine Hopgood, Sean O'Sullivan, Charlie Staines and Christian Crichton
Key Player: Dylan Edwards
It would be very easy to say the key player for this Panthers team is Nathan Cleary, and then quickly move on. But in the end, Clive Churchill Medal winner, Dylan Edwards, has a chance to be the key player as well for the Panthers. All it takes is a look at how the Panthers performed against St. Helens in their trial match, when Edwards was missing. Edwards organisational skills will be critical in this 2023 season.
Rising Star: Preston Riki
While it is interesting to see a rookie as a 24-year-old, the experienced Preston Riki is very close to an NRL debut this season. He has almost 50 appearances in reserve grade and will be looking for every opportunity possible with this Panthers team to make it to first grade. Riki showed just how good he is in the NSW Cup last year, where he scored seven tries and averaged over 70 run metres per game. With some of the Penrith players moving on from last season, this could provide a vacancy Riki needs.
5 Key Matches To Watch
Match 1: Round 4, vs Eels, at CommBank Stadium (Thu, Mar 23, 7:50pm)
Match 2: Round 11, vs Roosters, at BlueBet Stadium (Fri, May 12, 8pm)
Match 3: Round 18, vs Storm, at TBC (Fri, Jun 30, 8pm)
Match 4: Round 22, vs Sharks, at BlueBet Stadium (Sat, Jul 29, 7:35pm)
Match 5: Round 26, vs Eels, at BlueBet Stadium (Thu, Aug 24, 7:50pm)
2023 NRL Season Expectations
Expectations are sky high once again for the Panthers. But this year, it will be different. They have lost some pretty instrumental players from their 2022 squad. There’s a certain arrogance about this Panthers team, but this season, they could be tumbling back down to Earth. Not saying they won’t have another stellar year; they have enough star players. But we could see more of what happened in the trials, when they went down to St. Helens. In the end, they will still finish top four, but things should be a lot closer this year.