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Luai: How 'tough conversations' transformed Panthers

Jarome Luai reckons some "tough conversations", a huge pre-season and structural tweaks have morphed Penrith into one of the game's best defensive sides.

It's been a drastic improvement for the Panthers, who conceded 20 points per game in 2019. This year they average a tick under 14.

The ladder leaders' current streak of nine wins - a club record - has been built on sturdy defence right from kick-off.

Following last week's win over the Warriors, Penrith have gone 13 straight matches without conceding a point in the first 20 minutes.

"It just feels like we're a total different team come the start of the match and we're just ready to rock," Luai said.

The saying goes that "defence is an attitude" - and Luai believes a mental adjustment is part of the Panthers' turnaround.

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But the playmaker also said they've made tactical changes.

"We had a massive pre-season, to be honest," he said, with the team's preparations including a brutal army camp.

"We've got [assistant coaches] Baz [Trent Barrett] and Ciro [Cameron Ciraldo] there who's an awesome defensive coach.

"We had a lot of tough conversations in that pre-season. We've done a lot of work and it's paying off for us now.

"Maybe different systems [have helped] - we just changed a few little details in the pre-season. It is more mental as well.

"We're training really hard throughout the week as well, so come game day we're ready to roll."

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Despite being on course for the minor premiership, Luai is adamant Penrith's achievements don't count for much so far.

"Even though we're nine in a row, our goal this year is winning the comp and that will always be the goal for us," he said.

"No matter how good we're going now, we haven't done much yet."

Asked if it could be beneficial to lose one of the six games before the finals as a reality check, the 23-year-old said the tight win over the Warriors was the type of game they needed to stay grounded.

"I think it was a really good match for us: it was tough, it was gritty, the Warriors played some good footy," he said

"We're a real well-drilled side and we're not taking it too far ahead.

"We've got good experienced players [and] young players that are really good leaders for our team. We're doing really well as a team."

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