It's officially the business end of the season and finals footy is just around the corner. The Panthers have impressed this year and many consider them a dark horse in the premiership race. Ahead of their round 26 clash with Manly, Penrith are guaranteed to finish at least seventh but could still jump to fifth spot on the ladder. Read on why they can win it all in 2016.
Matt Moylan's standout year.
Captain, Matt Moylan has continued where he left off in 2015 and had an excellent season, with the 25-year old making his NSW Origin debut in Game 1 this year. The fullback is peaking when it matters most and recently kicked the winning field goal with two minutes on the clock against Gold Coast on Saturday to cap off a superb individual display. If the skipper takes his hot form into the finals, he gives the Panthers a real chance of matching it with the best.
Penrith love to offload.
The Panthers may field the youngest outfit in the NRL but official statistics show the side offloads more than any other team this year. Five eighth, Bryce Cartwright leads the competition's individual standings for offloads, with 69 in total, while lock, Trent Merrin is fourth best for handing off the footy in 2016. The team's ability to generate second phase opportunities has allowed Penrith's star outside backs to take full advantage of their opponents broken defensive line.
Team chemistry shows through.
Gus Gould loves talking about telepathy and the Panthers have it in spades. A number of core players won the Holden Cup together in 2013, with Bryce Cartwright, Waqa Blake, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Isaiah Yeo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard all taking part in the NYC final three years ago. The men from the mountains are playing entertaining footy and clearly have a great understanding with one another.
Griffin's superb management.
Coach, Anthony Griffin has expertly blooded a number of players and allowed his young and enterprising team to express themselves on the field. Hook has given his side's playmakers a degree of freedom to play off the cuff, in particular, allowing Moylan to chime in where he pleases. Transforming Peter Wallace into a hooker has also been a masterstroke, and has helped overcome the absence of James Segeyaro.
A never give-up attitude.
Penrith have played in more than a dozen games decided by six points or less this year. While they haven't managed to win them all, the Panthers have ground out three victories by a margin of one-point, including their most recent performance. While their inexperience may count against them, Penrith's rising stars certainly compete for the full 80 minutes and the side hasn't lost in a major blow-out this season.