Pre-season has kicked off for more than 40 local juniors vying for selection in the Panthers SG Ball Cup squad for 2018.

After winning the renowned NSW under-18s competition in 2016, Panthers disappointingly bowed out of last season at the semi final stage.

In 2018 they are looking to return to the summit of NSW junior rugby league under the guidance of new coach Jamie O'Keefe.

While O'Keefe hopes to deliver an eighth SG Ball premiership to the Panthers, his overriding focus is on the development of Penrith's youngsters as they progress through the club's junior system.

"It's all about the boys going to the next level, and my expectations are quite high," O'Keefe said.

"If they’re eighteen, we want them to take the next step to under-20's.

"If they’re a year younger and playing SG Ball then they are obviously very talented and accelerated; and at that point it is about developing their skills into senior SG Ball players for next season."

The 47-man squad that began training this week includes six players returning from last season's SG Ball side.

However O'Keefe said no players are certainties to feature in the upcoming season.

After a series of trial matches on either side of the New Year, O'Keefe and his coaching staff will trim the group to a final SG Ball squad of approximately 27 players.

The 2018 SG Ball competition is set to begin in early February, with Panthers to provide match reports and interviews throughout the season.