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Here is all you need to know about the Penrith Panthers ahead of the 2022 Telstra Premiership season.

The Lowdown

Overview

Penrith's budding crop of talented youngsters went one better in 2021 after being runners-up a year earlier and the good news for fans is most of the key pieces are still in place for 2022.

Possible best 17

1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Brian To'o, 3. Stephen Crichton, 4. Izack Tago, 5. Charlie Staines, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. Moses Leota, 9. Api Koroisau, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Liam Martin, 13. Isaah Yeo, 14. Mitch Kenny, 15. Matt Eisenhuth, 16. Scott Sorensen, 17. Spencer Leniu

Preparing the Panthers: Pre-season training

Key changes

Grand final centre duo Matt Burton (Bulldogs) and Paul Momirovski (Roosters) have moved on, which allows Stephen Crichton to return to his preferred spot. There are several options for the other spot with Izack Tago arguably the most likely. Kurt Capewell is the other notable out, although the squad is well-equipped with forwards while Brent Naden, Tyrone May and loan forward Tevita Pangai jnr have also departed.

Health check

All eyes will be on Nathan Cleary's shoulder as round one approaches. With a long season in wait, he won't be risked until he's right with the returning Sean O'Sullivan and recently promoted Kurt Falls among the options in the halves until Cleary is back.

Brian To'o is arguably the premier winger in the game
Brian To'o is arguably the premier winger in the game ©Panthers

Biggest question mark

Roster-wise the three-quarter line will take some time to come together given the departures. Rob Jennings, Jaeman Salmon and Taylan May are the other options in the top 30 while fullback Charlie Staines has struggled for impact when asked to play on the wing. The other big question mark is how the young squad will go backing up from the high of a premiership win and what is likely to be another gruelling Origin period.

Opening month

The Panthers open the NRL season at home to Manly followed by the Dragons (away), Knights (home game at Bathurst) and Rabbitohs (away). The Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs in particular will ensure the Panthers have to earn their wins early on next year.

Toughest stretch

The Origin period will likely test the Panthers once again. They take on the Bulldogs in round 13, with Penrith likely to be missing a host of stars while the blue-and-whites will be close to full strength and likely much improved compared to this year. After that the Knights (away), Warriors (away, potentially in New Zealand) then the Roosters (home) guarantee it won't be smooth sailing for the Panthers through the rep period.

Panthers pre-season testing

Make it count

The Panthers will need to bank some wins in the four games from rounds 5-8. Nathan Cleary should be back (if he does miss the early rounds) for round five's Bulldogs game at Stadium Australia, which is followed by home games against the Broncos and Raiders then a trip to the Gold Coast.

NRL Fantasy: Panthers 2022 prices

Nathan Cleary: HLF, $1,050,000
Brian To'o: WFB, $713,000
James Fisher-Harris: MID, $683,000
Isaah Yeo: MID, $660,000
Apisai Koroisau: HOK, $656,000
Sean O'Sullivan: HLF, $575,000
Viliame Kikau: EDG, $566,000
Moses Leota: MID, $515,000
Liam Martin: EDG, $499,000
Dylan Edwards: WFB, $496,000
Mitch Kenny: HOK, $478,000
Jarome Luai: HLF, $476,000
Chris Smith: MID/EDG, $462,000
Scott Sorensen: MID, $446,000
Matthew Eisenhuth: MID, $443,000
Stephen Crichton: CTR/WFB, $350,000
Izack Tago: EDG/CTR, $334,000
Spencer Leniu: MID, $322,000
J'maine Hopgood: EDG, $300,000
Taylan May: CTR, $300,000
Charlie Staines: WFB, $298,000
Lindsay Smith: MID, $270,000
Robert Jennings: WFB, $240,000
Jaeman Salmon: HLF, $240,000
Eddie Blacker: MID, $240,000
Kurt Falls: HLF, $220,000