With the Panthers entering their fourth-straight finals series for the first time in club history, we take a look back at the club’s previous finals appearances.
Finals: lost to Parramatta 38-6
After entering the New South Wales Rugby League premiership in 1967, it took 18 years for the club to finally break into the finals for the first time. After beating Manly 10-7 in a thrilling extra time playoff for fifth on a Tuesday night at the SCG, the young Panthers were no match for the experience of Parramatta, falling 38-6.
Finals: lost to Balmain 24-12; lost to Canberra 27-18
It took another four years for the Panthers to return to the top 5 (having lost a playoff for fifth against Balmain in 1988), finishing second after a claiming 16 regular season victories. The club would ultimately go out in straight sets, losing to eventual grand finalists Balmain and Canberra in successive weeks.
Finals: beat Brisbane 26-16; beat Canberra 30-12; lost to Canberra 18-14
Under the guidance of Canterbury’s 1988 premiership coach Phil Gould, the Panthers returned to the finals in 3rd position in 1990. Week one saw the club’s historic first finals victory against Brisbane, before a Greg Alexander masterclass in the major semi final guided the Panthers to a 30-12 extra time win over reigning premiers Canberra and the club’s maiden grand final appearance. The fairytale ultimately ended there though, as the Raiders came back two weeks later to snatch the title, 18-14.
Finals: beat North Sydney 16-14; beat Canberra 19-12
With the experience of 1990 guiding them, the Panthers dominated the competition in 1991, finishing six points clear in the minor premiership to earn the first week of the finals off. The boot of Greg Alexander proved the difference in the major semi final against Norths, as he kicked 4/5 to Daryl Halligan’s 1/5 to guide the Panthers into their second grand final in a row. With another week to freshen up, the Panthers faced their 1990 nemesis, Canberra, and would claim their fairytale maiden premiership in the club’s 25th season, 19-12, with club legend Royce Simmons retiring after scoring two tries.
Finals: beat Canterbury 15-14; lost to Canberra 32-12
It took six years and the Super League split for the Panthers to return to the finals after the 1991 title, where a Ryan Girdler field goal guided them to a surprise win over the Bulldogs in a Monday night elimination final. They were no match for the Raiders the following week though, going down 32-12.
Finals: lost to Canberra 34-16; lost to Parramatta 28-10
Having survived the cut for the NRL’s 14-team competition in 2000, the Panthers surprised many by finishing 5th. Under the McIntyre system, they faced the 4th-placed Raiders in the quarter finals, suffering a 34-16 loss, before being bundled out Parramatta the following week, 28-10.
Finals: beat Brisbane 28-18; beat Warriors 28-20; beat Sydney Roosters 18-6
Just two years after finishing with the wooden spoon, the Panthers completed one of rugby league’s great turnarounds, claiming both the minor and major premiership in 2003. They beat Brisbane in the first finals match at Penrith in week 1, earning the week off before beating the Warriors in the preliminary final. In a thrilling grand final, the Panthers upset the Roosters, who were aiming for back-to-back premierships, 18-6, with Scott Sattler’s famous trysaver the moment of the match. Additionally, Luke Priddis became the first Panther to be awarded the Clive Churchill Medal, while John and Martin Lang became the first father-son duo to win a premiership together.
Finals: beat St George Illawarra 31-30; lost to Bulldogs 30-14
Despite finishing 4th, a thrilling one-point win in week 1 of the finals at home was enough to send the Panthers straight through to the preliminary final for the second year in a row thanks to other results going their way. The way no match for the eventual premiers the Bulldogs though, going down 30-14.
Finals: lost to Canberra 24-22; lost to Sydney Roosters 34-12
Breaking the then-longest finals drought of the 16 teams, the Panthers finished the minor premiership in second place on the ladder. A home final without suspended captain Petero Civoniceva resulted in a two-point loss to Canberra, before a heavy loss to eventual runners-up the Roosters ended an otherwise successful season abruptly.
Finals: beat Sydney Roosters 19-18; lost to Canterbury 18-12
In Ivan Cleary’s third season as coach, the Panthers finally made it back to the finals, finishing 4th to set up a mouth-watering clash with the Roosters. A last-second field goal from Jamie Soward saw off the minor premiers and advanced the Panthers straight to the preliminary final, however in a case of déjà vu from ten years earlier, the Bulldogs ended the Panthers season a week early.
Finals: beat Canterbury 28-12; lost to Canberra 22-12
Several busloads of fans made the trip to Allianz Stadium to watch the Panthers knock Canterbury out in the opening weekend of the finals, before the Panthers season was ended once again by the Raiders.
Finals: beat Manly 22-10; lost to Brisbane 13-6
Qualifying for consecutive finals series for the first time in over a decade, the Panthers overturned a loss to Manly in the final round of the regular season to knock them out in week one, before a controversial loss to Brisbane ended their season a week later.
Finals: beat Warriors 27-12; lost to Cronulla 21-20
For the third year in a row, the Panthers won a week one elimination final, only to go down in week two. Facing the Sharks after a comfortable win over the Warriors, the Panthers recovered from 18-2 down at half time to draw level at 20-all. Chad Townsend sealed the game for the Sharks with a field goal, while a young Nathan Cleary missed with two attempts of his own.
Finals: beat Sydney Roosters 29-28; beat South Sydney 20-16; lost to Melbourne 26-20
With Ivan Cleary in his second season back at the helm, the Panthers broke all sorts of records during the covid-19 interrupted 2020 season, suffering only one defeat during the regular season to claim their first minor premiership in 17 years. Thrilling wins over the Roosters and Rabbitohs guided them into the grand final off the back of a 17-game winning streak, however a red-hot Melbourne side ultimately ended the fairytale, despite a valiant comeback.
Finals: lost to South Sydney 16-10; beat Parramatta 8-6; beat Melbourne 10-6; beat South Sydney 14-12
Another successful regular season in the covid-19 chaos and relocation saw the Panthers just miss out on the minor premiership to Melbourne on for-and-against. A surprise loss to the Rabbitohs meant the Panthers hard to go the hard way about climbing rugby league’s Mount Everest, however brutal wins against Parramatta and Melbourne put them into their second successive decider. In the rematch against South Sydney, Stephen Crichton’s late intercept clinched the title, breaking an 18-year drought. Ivan and Nathan Cleary joined the Langs as father-son premiership winners, with Nathan also taking out the Clive Churchill Medal and being one of more than half a dozen players to play through injuries in the process.
Finals: beat Parramatta 27-8; beat South Sydney 32-12; beat Parramatta 28-12
After climbing Everest 12 months earlier, the Panthers were intent on going to the moon in 2022. Finishing comfortably first in the minor premiership, the Panthers blew the Eels away in the second half of the qualifying final to advance directly to the prelims, where they overcame a slow start to end South Sydney’s premiership hopes for the third year in a row, 32-12. In the grand final, Dylan Edwards etched his name into folklore with a tackle very similar to Scott Sattler’s 2003 effort on his way to the Clive Churchill Medal. In a near-perfect performance, the Eels only got on the board in the final five minutes as the Panthers went back-to-back for the first time, becoming only the second team to do so in the NRL era.