A record-equalling nine Penrith Panthers 2021 NRL grand final winners featuring in State of Origin
The Penrith Panthers’ stunning win in 2021 was built on a report prepared ten years earlier, and now that blueprint could set the tone for the success of State of Origin – with a record nine premiership players selected for game two .
The 20 page report, ‘Built From Within’, was a strategy and club philosophy. Panthers junior development officers Matt Cameron and Jim Jones started in 2013.
A decade later, the club is vying to take part in the third major final in a row, producing representative stars like there’s no tomorrow.
Heroes of the club’s 2021 premiership such as Isaah Yeo, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Api Koroisau and Matt Burton (now with the Bulldogs) will all start Sunday night for NSW.
Current Bronco Kurt Capewell will also start in the second row for Queensland.
The 2021 Premiership champions will have nine players starting in State of Origin game two
Penrith is only the fourth Premiership team with nine players to enter the State of Origin game the following year, after Brisbane (1993 and 1997) and Melbourne (2007).
Cameron said the document was designed to outline how the club would “develop children on Penrith and produce first-graders”.
“First and foremost, it’s about good coaching, good systems, good governance, investing in the club’s juniors and being patient. And that patience is from the top of the tree all the way down; that’s critical to building long-term success,” he said News Corp†
‘We have opted for a long-term approach.’
Penrith players Nathan Cleary (left) and Isaah Yeo (right) will be crucial for the Blues on Sunday
The by-product of building a successful team based almost entirely on local juniors and fostering a strong club culture across the organization is that representative teams benefit.
Cleary and Luai are the NSW halves, Yeo is the Blues’ main forward, while To’o, Crichton and Martin’s club combinations bolster offense and defence.
The first tryscorer in that big overall win in 2021, Burton, who moved to Canterbury this season for more opportunities, was recruited to Dubbo’s junior Penrith trails and will make his NSW debut on Sunday.
New Blue Matt Burton poses after being named by NSW in the middle of game two
Burton celebrates scoring first try in 2021 NRL grand final for Penrith
Koroisau will likely start at hooker for the Blues after being recalled after some great games for the Panthers.
While recruited from the Rabbitohs, the winner of the double premiership was a vital part of Penrith’s backbone in his second spell for the club.
Api Koroisau has been recalled to the NSW squad for game two on Sunday night
Koroisau said the document could not only have done material things for the club, such as premierships and representative numbers.
It was also crucial in improving the leadership and abilities of players in the club so that they could move to the next level.
“There’s a lot of youth, but there’s also a lot of maturity with players like Isaah Yeo and Nathan Cleary,” Koroisau said.
“In that respect, I think the biggest improvement in a player is in Jarome Luai, how much he’s changed in the three years I’ve been at the club.
‘He masters the mix of talent and maturity. That has become part of the culture at Penrith, it is ingrained and has led to a lot of success’, says Koroisau.
Jarome Luai will be crucial for the Blues at five-eighth alongside club teammate Nathan Cleary
Cameron noted that the Panthers had been consistent in the years since the report was written.
The club’s success has not only been in the past two years. I think we reached the final four out of five years there at one point. There has been success, but this current crop has really taken it to the next level,” he said.
“It’s the culmination of some very good coaching in the building. It reflects a grand final in 2020, a grand final in 2021 and where we are in 2022.”
Api Koroisau (left) and Stephen Crichton celebrate after winning last year’s grand final
Cameron said it took a whole club approach to play in two grand finals in a row, and with so many representative stars.
“(Nine players in Origin) is an honest attempt, it’s a very solid reflection on where the club is today and the work that has been done over a number of years,” he said.
‘It shows not only the coaching side, but also the governance and management side to be able to produce such a group and keep it in the building.’
Nathan Cleary (left) and Jarome Luai (right) after State of Origin game one
It’s not just players getting through the Penrith system and securing rep honors as well.
NSW coach Brad Fittler is, of course, a Penrith junior, and his right-hand man is current Panthers vice president, and NSW great, Greg Alexander.
The Blues fitness chief, Hayden Knowles, was also part of last year’s win in the premiership.
Penrith great Greg Alexander participates in NSW training session prior to game one
Oddly enough, even the club knew they had a few potential NSW players in the ranks.
In what can now be read in retrospect as a clever pun, the ‘Built From Within’ report said the club’s development trajectories would yield some special players.
“The players designated to take part in this program will be seen as the ‘blue chip’ prospects for the club and given the opportunity to develop in an environment where NRL expectations are the norm.”