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Penrith will go into the 2023 season looking to become the first team in 40 years to win three consecutive premierships. 

The Panthers will be the team to beat again in the new year but possess a squad that, despite losing two not stars over the summer, are more than capable of defending the trophy for a third year.

Ivan Cleary has hit the player market for a handful of signings but as has been like their past three years of success, plenty of their next crop of talent will come from within.

The Panthers will hit the ground running with a World Club Challenge clash against Super League champions St Helens on February 18 before hosting the Broncos on March 3, both at BlueBet Stadium.

Predicted Round 1 team

  1. Dylan Edwards
  2. Brian To'o
  3. Stephen Crichton
  4. Izack Tago
  5. Sunia Turuva
  6. Jarome Luai
  7. Nathan Cleary
  8. Moses Leota
  9. Mitch Kenny
  10. James Fisher-Harris
  11. Luke Garner
  12. Liam Martin
  13. Isaah Yeo
  14. Soni Luke
  15. Scott Sorensen
  16. Spencer Leniu
  17. Jaeman Salmon

Other: Taylan May (injured), Eddie Blacker, Jack Cogger, Chris Smith, Lindsay Smith, Matt Eisenhuth, Tyrone Peachey, Tom Jenkins, Zac Hosking, Jack Cole, Jesse McLean.

The best NRL tries from the Panthers in 2022

Squad watch

  • Squad spots filled: 28/30

The Panthers will have a familiar squad again in 2023 but some notable absentees with Viliame Kikau (Bulldogs) and Api Koroisau (Wests Tigers) among the key departures.

With rising stars Jack Cole and Jesse McLean added to the top 30 and signed to long-term deals the premiers have filled 28 spots in their top 30 roster.

They've got a worthy replacement for Koroisau with Mitch Kenny set to take the starting jersey, while Tyrone Peachey returns to the club and is likely to play a utility role. 

Former Knights and Bulldogs halfback Jack Cogger arrives to Sydney's west after a stint in the Super League and will play a back-up role vacated by Sean O'Sullivan, who has joined the Dolphins.

Penrith's outside back depth will need some beefing up following the departures of Robert Jennings (Dolphins) and Charlie Staines (Wests Tigers) to rival clubs, while Christian Crichton remains unsigned for 2023.

Health watch

The Panthers copped a blow in the World Club Challenge with Taylan May suffering a torn ACL in the side's loss to St Helens. 

May will miss the entire season with Sunia Turuva's stocks suddenly rising in Sydney's west with the Fijian representative set for a spot on the wing.

Dylan Edwards (hamstring) and Liam Martin (shoulder) were left out of the World Club Challenge with minor niggles in a bid to be available for the Broncos season opener.

Tyrone Peachey returns to the Panthers after stints at the Titans and Wests Tigers.
Tyrone Peachey returns to the Panthers after stints at the Titans and Wests Tigers. ©NRL Photos

Most contentious position 

It looms as a four-way battle for Viliame Kikau's jersey on the left edge with the likes of Scott Sorensen, Luke Garner, Zac Hosking and Chris Smith all pushing for the starting role.

Sorensen would appear to have the front running given his services to the Panthers in recent years but his value as a bench impact forward can't be underestimated. 

Garner arrives at the Panthers after coach Ivan Cleary handed him an NRL debut while both were at the Wests Tigers in 2018. 

A strong line-runner, Garner is bound to have an impact with his new side while Hosking also impressed during his brief time in first grade at the Broncos.

Scott Sorensen could be promoted to the starting side in 2023.
Scott Sorensen could be promoted to the starting side in 2023. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Biggest strength

Penrith's 'next man up' ability is the definition of the saying. It's also not something they've developed in the last two years but rather for the past decade.

The Panthers' debutants have always hit the ground running with their local junior status the best in the league.

This shouldn't change in 2023 despite who has departed, while any team with key halves Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary in the side will have direction and patience regardless of the players around them.

Biggest question mark 

Can the team evolve again or will the gap be narrowed in 2023?

No team can stay at the top forever and although the Panthers were even better in winning back-to-back trophies, have they peaked?

What's their motivation levels like? Replacing two representative stars is only part of the challenge for the defending champions, being hungry for more success is the other. 

These are questions that will linger around the side for as long as they stay a force. 

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.