Penrith's new toys add to club on the rise
The easy thing for Panthers fans to do at this point is to function like we all did a month ago, when we jumped out of bed to see what Saint Nicholas shot down the chimney with overnight. After all, nothing compares to the festive act of unwrapping all the new toys you've got to play with.
That's certainly how it felt at Penrith on Monday, when the club trotted out a cast of new recruits big enough to field their entire Nines team in Auckland next month.
From elder statesmen Brent Kite to up-and-comers Kevin Naiqama and Tyrone Peachey, and from club castoffs Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace to runaway Titan Jamal Idris, all the pre-season chatter was awash with excitement generated from a recruitment splurge like none other in 2014.
But if you listened past the child-like squealing over Phil Gould's suddenly fruitful five-year plan, you would've heard the real reasons why the commentator-turned-club boss is the early favourite for the General Manager of the Year award, if there was one.
"Back at the Warriors all the boys knew what I could do. Here I have to prove myself." - Panthers signing Elijah Taylor
For example, take this two-liner from two-time premiership-winner Brent Kite, who was asked whether the water in the Nepean River would be his fountain of youth: "I think [Panthers trainer] Ronnie Palmer's got that idea, because they go out and run hard [here]," he semi-quipped.
"I thought I could get over here and inspire some of these young chargers, but I'm finding that pretty hard to do at the back of the pack. They're all in front of me."
Or how about this first-week lesson from Elijah Taylor, who arrived a week before schedule because he realised no one would remember he was an under-20s premiership-winning captain.
"It's like I have to prove myself to all the players here, whereas back at the Warriors all the boys knew what I could do. I could do the training and coast," he said.
"Here I have to prove myself, I have to do everything properly. I've got my fight back."
Fiji fullback Naiqama fled Newcastle because of the Test and Origin wingers ahead of him in first grade, only to find that he was just one of many wiz kids at his new club.
"We did a speed session last week, and there's definitely a lot of speedsters in the club, that's for sure," he said.
And finally there's Idris, who learned on his first day in that both natural talent and size – of which he has in bucketloads – doesn't automatically get you a starting gig. Not when the even bigger and faster Eto Nabuli has yet to crack the top 17.
"He's massive, isn't he?" Idris said. "His rig too! And there's Joshy Mansour... they're all massive. I was in the gym with them and everyone was lifting big.
"When I used to do weights I used to call it social weights because I just used to walk in and talk to everyone. I might have to start lifting now."
On the surface, it seems like Gould has brought the bling from Bondi to Penrith. An impressive off-season snag, complete with Origin and Test experience in a team devoid of them, will do that.
But in case anyone forgot, the Panthers finished one win outside the top eight last season and weren't far from the surprise finals packets Newcastle turned out to be.
Coach Ivan Cleary may not have seven premierships to his name, but taking this previously marquee-less mob of toilers – remember the Michael Jennings and Luke Lewis fiasco? – as close to September as he did was as Wayne Bennett-like as you could get.
Building a new culture is like committing to a new year's resolution. It always seems like a good idea, but they rarely last that long. But this new-look club was already on their way to having something special even before all the shiny new playthings arrived over the summer.
New five-eighth Jamie Soward, arguably the most important new toy of them all, sums it up best: "We've recruited really well, but come round one, it's not going to mean much if you don't put it on the field. It's exciting times for Penrith and it's an exciting time to be a Panthers fan, but it's just a matter of us getting the results now."