Panthers better than 2014 crop: Mansour

Penrith winger Josh Mansour says the high-flying Panthers' confidence is growing with each NRL win.
Penrith winger Josh Mansour says the high-flying Panthers' confidence is growing with each NRL win.

He was part of Penrith's most successful team in 15 years but Josh Mansour is certain this current claw of Panthers is far more dangerous prospect.

Mansour is one of three players to remain from the 2014 side, who finished fourth and are the only Panthers since 2004 to reach the preliminary finals.

Like the current team, that was a side with young talent being brought through under Ivan Cleary and Trent Barrett at the foot of the mountains.

But while most critics spent that season waiting for the injury-ravaged underdogs to fall, there is a feeling of surety about the current group.

"We did very well to go deep into the finals (in 2014). But I think this team I am involved with is more of a complete team," Mansour said.

It's evident in the way they are playing too, with almost every player producing well above their value.

A win against the Warriors on Friday will take them to a club record nine straight victories, one clear of the 2003 side that last took the trophy back to Penrith.

"Our footy has been doing the talking," Mansour said.

"It comes down to confidence, it's such a big thing. Look at last year we had no confidence, this year is so different.

"I've been at this club for nine years now and I feel like the bond I have with this playing group is the strongest I've ever had."

While Penrith debuted three teenagers in 2014, they still had old heads like Peter Wallace and Jamie Soward in the halves and 300-gamer Brent Kite.

In 2020 they are even younger, with the group the squad the most inexperienced in the NRL and only six of their players having topped 100 career games.

Despite that, they have now been atop the ladder for three weeks - their longest run since the side that won the 1991 premiership.

And they don't look at all overawed by the position.

"But it's not until you are sitting at the top of the table you realise you are the hunted and not the hunters anymore," hooker Apisai Koroisau said.

"Knowing they are coming for us, a lot of the boys are happy to step up."

"That's one of those things about Penrith. They're good at being underdogs. Out here in the west they have that blue-collar mindset.

"So to have that (different) kind of feeling coming into games is pretty cool."

Australian Associated Press