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Premiership winner Royce Simmons believes only injuries can prevent this year's crop of Panthers from emulating the club's 1991 efforts by winning a grand final.

No Panthers player who runs out this weekend was alive when the club lost their first grand final in 1990 before beating the Raiders in a grand final replay 12 months later but the squad is aware of past achievements.

Simmons joined Nathan Cleary at the Panthers Academy ahead of the club's 30-year anniversary celebrations on Friday night wearing the modern-day replica of the famous 1991 strip.

Simmons was a two-try grand final hero in the maiden triumph and a speech to the current generation of players in the pre-season has given them added belief to repeat history.

"You learn from that game [losing a grand final], you learn how much it hurts you and I don't think until you lose a grand final you realise how much pain or disappointment you go through," Simmons said.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Raiders

"We had so much respect for the Raiders, not only playing against them but look at their side … they had Mal Meninga, Bradley Clyde and I was playing against Steve Walters who was an outstanding player.

"You go through the list … Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Garry Belcher. Where do you stop? We had all the respect for them in both games.

"The hard part is getting back there. Going through this year and hoping you don't get injuries … putting your best team on the paddock come grand final day is super important and if you can't you're going to struggle to win."

Royce Simmons and Prime Minister Bob Hawke after the 1991 grand final.
Royce Simmons and Prime Minister Bob Hawke after the 1991 grand final. ©NRL Photos

Simmons said there were certain player comparisons within the 1991 and 2021 squads but the belief was among the biggest links between the squads.

"It's hard to compare a lot because we were part-time [but] if these players played us [in 1991] they'd beat us by 100," Simmons said.

"I'm not saying they're more skillful, but they're bigger, stronger and quicker. It's just like a new car, it goes quicker than one you had 30 years ago."

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary laughed at Simmons' suggestions the current squad would touch up their 1991 side.

"I think that's absolute rubbish," Cleary said.

"Royce is as humble as they come. He'll tell you that he wasn't meant to play in that grand final team but he ended up scoring a double.

"In terms of players back them they were as tough as they come and a lot of them worked a normal job and then played footy on the side as well so just looking back on that.

"If we could be half as tough as what they were we'll do alright."

Panthers v Raiders - Round 5

Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai added; "Royce is a big part of this club and had a talk to us before the season started and what the jersey means to him and how much pride he played with back in the day.

"He just spoke about getting up for every game.  We're a proud club and a lot of us have come through the grades so history means a lot to us and how the club came through.

"It was pretty cool to see the resemblance back then to now. They were a young side as well.

"It's a really good feeling here, like last year when we went on that run [but] it's still early in the season so you don't want to look too far ahead.

"You don't win competitions this early in the year."

The Panthers will have 16 of their 1991 premiership-winning squad in attendance for a lap of honour pre-game on Friday night with only 2000 tickets remaining available to the general public. 


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