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More than 70 youngsters vying for selection in the Panthers junior representative sides have commenced pre-season training under the watchful eye of Academy Program Manager Sam Jones.

The 2019 season marks Jones' first at the helm of the renowned Panthers junior system.

"The boys have come back in good shape," Jones said.

"We held their orientation night eight weeks earlier than usual this year, where we did our medicals, training plans and a nutrition talk.

"This gave them about two months to prepare for pre-season and now they're here in real good nick.

"In past years, players that we're invested in have come back unfit or overweight, so I think we're ahead of schedule compared to this point in recent years."

The Panthers junior program is in a strong position after an outstanding 2018 season. The SG Ball side claimed the National Championship title, while the Harold Matthews Cup team fell one game short of a Grand Final appearance.

Despite this success, Jones and the Academy staff are still searching for improvement as Panthers builds its reputation as Australia's premier junior rugby league nursery.

"We have had plenty of success this year, but we're continually looking to better ourselves," Jones said.

"Our High Performance Manager Matt Cameron always asks, 'How do we make the boat go faster?'.

"We always have goals to strive for, plans to implement and players to further develop."

While Panthers is known for its ability to develop local playing talent, Jones says that he also has an eye on replicating that success with the junior coaching staff.

Jamie O'Keefe led the SG Ball Panthers to national glory within twelve months of joining the club, while Kyle Churchill took an injury-hit Harold Matts outfit to the preliminary finals in his first year as coach.

"For me, the biggest thing this year is developing the coaches," Jones said.

"We want to make sure we've got the right guys and the building, and I really think we have. We've got a good mix of coaches so it's very exciting."

The Academy coaches will determine their final squads for the 2019 junior representative season following pre-season trial games at Patrician Brothers Blacktown on 15 December and 25 January.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.