Our modern day “never before, never again”: Why neutral fans should want the three-time champion Panthers to keep winning for as long as they can

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BY CURTIS WOODWARD

@woodward_curtis

Us Australians are quite a selective bunch – especially so when it comes to sport and who we idolise as heroes and darlings and who we denounce as froth and riff-raff.

The mighty racehorse Black Caviar won 25 straight races.

We saluted her and embraced her from a distance, right around the country, like proud parents every time she came down the straight.

“Good on ya, love!”

“She’ll never be beat!”

Apparently, Sir Donald Bradman wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea off the field but because of his incredible batting average and downright ridiculous talent we looked passed other traits.

Then there’s the Penrith Panthers.

A club currently on the best run since St George won their 11th-straight grand final at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the 18th of September 1966.

That’s 58 years.

What the Panthers are currently doing, in this modern game, is easily the second greatest feat in NSWRL history and that dates back 116 years.

Many of us have predicted Penrith’s fall and we’ve kept getting it wrong.

They couldn’t go back-to-back.

Surely, they couldn’t win three?

Forget about it.

Tall Poppy Syndrome is alive and well.

It’s the Aussie way.

We’ve been guilty of trying to rip the Panthers down at every turn.

They’re too cocky.

Jarome Luai’s a bully.

The referees are in their pocket.

Your writer believed for a time that Nathan Cleary was a one-trick pony.

The 2023 grand final proved otherwise.

But the fact is all this codswallop will be forgotten in thirty years.

So, if that’s the case, why aren’t we embracing the fact that these here Panthers are our modern day “never before, never again?”

Will any one of us in our lifetimes see someone else do what the Panthers are doing?

The question shouldn’t be “who will knock the Panthers off in 2024?”

It should be “how many can they win?”

The alternative this year isn’t that good anyway.

Who wants to see the Melbourne Storm or the Sydney Roosters win it again?

It would be the 6th time in the last ten seasons, either the Storm or the Tricolours have won the competition.

Nobody wants that unless you’re a puffer jacket-wearing, latte-sipper on the Yarra River or walking your chow chow through Bondi Junction.

If that’s our future than give us a Panthers four-peat.

Throw the babies in the air, slap a cape on their backs and give them the keys to the city.

They’ve got other storylines too.

Can they farewell two of their favourite sons in James Fisher-Harris and Luai?

Like their brothers before them they leave at season’s end – victim’s of the salary cap machine.

Men like Viliame Kikau, Stephen Crichton, Matt Burton, Api Koroisau, Kurt Capewell and Spencer Leniu.

You’ve got the comeback story of Penrith’s greatest ever halfback Nathan Cleary.

The mercurial pivot hasn’t laced a boot since the 10th of May after injuring a hamstring in a game against Canterbury-Bankstown.

He is expected back on the field for Penrith’s run to the finals next week at BlueBet Stadium when they clash with the Dolphins.

Can Cleary find the form that broke every Brisbane supporter’s heart last year?

Then there’s the old Penrith Park itself as ‘Father Time’ comes knocking.

The old girl, in its current form, will be no more at season’s end.

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Hell, the club is bringing back the 1967 chocolate soldiers strip for the round 27 match versus the Gold Coast Titans.

Everyone loves the chocolate soldiers!

Those Panthers, toiling, rugged, hard men from the foot of the mountains, are the heroes we need but don’t deserve.

Like Darth Vader, Apollo Creed, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and Spielberg’s T-Rex, the best villains become the hero.

Let the dynasty continue.

For one more year, anyway.

@woodward_curtis

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