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Ivan to credit for Panthers success: Sorensen

The Penrith Panthers will join rare company at Accor Stadium on Sunday night when they take the field for their fourth-straight NRL grand final against the Brisbane Broncos.

Since grand finals were made mandatory in 1954, only four other sides have qualified for four consecutive grand finals: Melbourne (2006-09), Parramatta (1981-84), South Sydney (1967-71) and the 11-straight St George juggernaut (1956-66).

A victory over the Broncos would see the Panthers become the first side since the Eels of 1981-83 to claim a hat trick of premierships.

When asked what it was about the squad that has kept them on the cusp of history, Scott Sorensen had a simple answer.

“I feel like it’s two words: Ivan Cleary,” Sorensen said.

“He’s just built a culture. He’s built the team. He’s brought the players in. Players have left, he’s brought more players in. Obviously, coaching staff as well. I feel like he’s just done an incredible job and we’re very fortunate and very lucky to be in this position.

“I could obviously touch on the team and the players and obviously everyone’s individual brilliance and how we work as a team, but I feel it just comes back to him.”

At the end of 2020, Sorensen’s career was at a crossroad. He had played just 39 first grade games since debuting at Cronulla in 2014 and had the choice between heading to England or giving up on his first grade dream altogether before the Panthers came knocking.

Grand Final teams presented at Fan Fest

“To be completely honest, [Penrith] was the only real opportunity I had in terms of training with a first grade squad,” he said.

“I had a conversation to go overseas, but far from locked in. I just sat down and had a meeting and a chat with Ivan and I thought, ‘I’d love to play for this guy.’ I was very fortunate it worked out that way and I’m here now and absolutely love it.”

The stats show that 48 players have made their club debut since Cleary returned as coach in 2019, with half of them also coming through the club’s pathways. Only six of the 22 players in the squad for Sunday night debuted at other clubs and each of them were also brought to the club by Cleary.

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.