Seeking the historic four-peat of Premierships not achieved since the Dragons in 1966, Penrith will again start as title favourites.
As a very early diversion from the focus of this preview, that Dragons 11-straight premierships from 1956-66 is an equal world record shared by German football club Bayern Munich, if our friends at Google are to be believed.
Anyway, where were we?
Ah yes, the Panthers, they’re very good at football, the Australian pig skinned ball variety of football that is.
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That is the question plaguing Supercoaches ahead of round 1.
That and about a thousand others.
At the time of writing, Cleary is sitting at 42% ownership overall.
There’s talk of tighter defences and clunky attack to start the season which invariably occurs, so when you add in the tough Penrith draw is it enough to consider starting without the master No.7?
Let’s take a look at how he’s started the past three seasons off the back of grand finals and huge Supercoach seasons.
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First five games Supercoach average:
2023: 90.4 points per game (first three round average of 56.6)
2022: 97.6 (missed first three rounds, opened with 34 and 57 on return)
Across the first five games in the past three seasons he’s averaged 90+, so anyone hoping for a slow start to the year may need to think again.
He’s also played a fairly heavily right side only role in the past, but in the back end of 2023 he started sweeping to the left as well.
If this becomes a regular plan he could average 100+ with additional attacking opportunities.
Bizza is an interesting one, you’d think with his work-rate and finishing ability in the best team in the NRL, outside Nathan Cleary, he’d have some monster scores in him each year.
It’s not always so.
He’s arguably the most consistent CTW year after year, but not necessarily the one with anything near the highest upside.
Penrith’s attack is so balanced across the field that the right edge isn’t necessarily a target area, whereas say a left edge at the Rabbitohs or Knights gets the vast majority of attacking footy.
To’o averaged a very strong 71 points last season with four tonnes to his name.
They were all low, with a top score of 112.
In 2022 it was a similar story with three tonnes, but a top score of 116.
He had 35 in base in 2023 which is excellent.
It doesn’t mean he can’t belt out a strong start to the season with 130+ scores, but it’s hard to see Penrith getting much better, meaning To’o probably doesn’t offer too much value to start the season.