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With speed, skill and strength coursing through the Penrith backline courtesy of the likes of Matt Moylan, Jamal Idris and Josh Mansour, the Panthers can threaten any defence.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has confirmed that Kangaroos winger Josh Mansour will miss the side's season-opening clash against the Bulldogs, while strike centre Jamal Idris is in extreme doubt.

Mansour has been on ice since going under the knife for a shoulder injury he carried into the Four Nations tournament for Australia, while Idris recently underwent spinal surgery to repair some nerve damage to his lower left body.

Everyone else – including first grade quartet Elijah Taylor (ACL), Bryce Cartwright (ankle), Tyrone Peachey (pec) and skipper Peter Wallace (ACL) – is expected to be available for selection for the March 8 clash against the Bulldogs at Sportingbet Stadium.

"Most of the guys were either before the end of last season, or at the end of the season. So we had a staggered approach for a lot of the guys coming back," Cleary said on Wednesday.

"Jamal's is more recent. His is a different issue. He'll be struggling to make Round 1. The only other guy at this stage is Josh Mansour, who won't play Round 1."

Cleary also said five-eighth Jamie Soward – who had an ankle problem fixed over the summer – would play in this Saturday's trial against New Zealand in Rotorua, while Wallace would return the following week in their final warm-up against Parramatta.

With most of the Panthers squad back to full health, Soward believes a strong start to the season would help them build on last year's impressive finals push that saw them fall one game short of the Grand Final.

In their favour is a fairly quiet summer recruitment-wise, a stark contrast to this time last year when six players made their first appearance in a Penrith jumper in the first game of the season. 

"Last year we probably were just still getting to know each other. There was always going to be a getting to know each other period," Soward said.

"But I think I said after about Round 8, that period stopped and we needed to judge ourselves and mark ourselves a lot harder. We did that and we strung [together] five in a row in the middle part of the year. We need to just start fast and hopefully play some consistent footy."

Meanwhile, Cleary also answered questions on the club's interest in Dragons forward Trent Merrin, saying that the club was committed on primarily bringing juniors through the system but were always open to players of Merrin's calibre.

"Our recruitment policy, our mandate is to develop our own players and that's going on very nicely. But from time to time we're always going to look out for something we can't grow," he said. 

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