Geyer excited by Penrith's stars of future
The Panthers will head into Sunday's Holden Cup grand final chasing their third NYC title in the past four years, and according to premiership winner Mark Geyer, a lot of the credit has to go to head coach Cameron Ciraldo.
Penrith's NYC team was a runaway train in 2015 as they won 20 matches during the regular season before storming through the finals, eventually outclassing the Sea Eagles 34-18 in the grand final.
Despite starting this year with the bulk of that squad still intact, some pundits questioned whether Ciraldo's troops would maintain the rage given their achievements the previous year.
Those fears looked to have some merit in the opening weekend of the season when they let a lead slip to lose to the Raiders on the final play of the game.
But that would prove to be nothing but a blip on the radar as the mountain men bounced back to win their next 13 matches on the trot to sew up a top four spot with weeks to spare.
They lost Nathan Cleary to NRL duties after 10 weeks, star fullback Dylan Edwards has floated between NYC, reserve grade and NRL, while injuries and suspensions have wreaked havoc to their starting 17 since the start of the year.
But through all their ups and downs, the Panthers managed to book a spot in this weekend's decider courtesy of a 32-16 win over North Queensland to give themselves a shot at winning back-to-back titles – a feat not achieved since the Warriors in 2010 and 2011.
According to Geyer from Triple M Sydney's The Grill Team, it's an achievement few people saw coming and one that has plenty to do with the leadership shown by Ciraldo.
"It's one of the underrated stories of the year just how well they've gone in back-to-back years," Geyer told NRL.com.
"Cameron Ciraldo has done a magnificent job with a team that is expected to do well each year. That's what makes it even more of a hard ask because people just think the team with the biggest nursery in rugby league is going to do well every time.
"I don't even think people in Penrith's hierarchy expected them to do this well in back-to-back years."
And while they're on the brink of doing something special this weekend, Geyer predicted the seeds were being planted for many more years of success in Penrith.
The Panthers were crowned SG Ball champions following a 25-10 win over Illawarra back in May, before downing the Townsville Blackhawks the following week in the National Final.
Penrith's NRL side also reached the second week of the finals, and with the Panthers boasting one of the most exciting mixes of youth and experience, Geyer is confident this year's results could lead to success down the track.
"SG Ball won the competition, they've got a litany of juniors coming through and some of the guys in this Holden Cup team are going to be stars," he said.
"All of that suggests Penrith are going to be there or thereabouts for the next five or six years."