27 matches: 23 wins, 4 losses
Top point scorer: Nathan Cleary – 165 [3 tries, 75 goals, 1 field goal]
Top try scorer: Taylan May – 16
Merv Cartwright Medal: Dylan Edwards
The Panthers performed a feat in the opening round that they could not do in either 1992 or 2004, and that was win their opening round match as defending premiers. In a highly anticipated opening match of the new 2022 season, they despatched 2021 preliminary finalists Manly 28-6 at BlueBet Stadium.
Any fears that Penrith may be suffering from a premiership hangover was quickly dispelled, as they went on a run not to dissimilar to the 2021 premiership season, the only difference being that their unbeaten streak to start the season ended at eight matches – but not before recording the best ever season to a team defending a title. In amongst their first eight wins was yet another highly anticipated battle, this time a grand final rematch against South Sydney, and were in the end comfortable 26-12 victors.
Parramatta’s tight 22-20 victory at BlueBet Stadium in Round 9 also ended another, but longer streak – the Panthers had remained undefeated in 21 matches at home, which started in late 2019 and had spanned the entire 2020 and 2021 seasons.
In 2022, their home ground was a main topic of discussion, with NSW government plans to either redevelop or build a new stadium on the site of the adjoining showground site. In July, it was confirmed that the Panthers would remain at home in 2023 with preferred option being a new stadium, but its future remains uncertain as it was a central part of a larger argument of stadium funding with other venues in Sydney claiming a piece of the pie.
The loss to the Eels would be a minor bump, with a commanding 32-6 victory over Melbourne the following week in the Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium.
Just like the previous season, the Panthers were heavily represented in the New South Wales squad for State of Origin, and were also heavily present in the mid-season representative round, with a number of players selected for New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. A total of 19 of the 30 player top squad were involved during the representative round, which were a series of Test matches as well as State of Origin.
The Panthers depth was put on show during that time, and were able to keep winning, stringing together a nine match winning streak.
Parramatta would once again put a halt to the streak in Round 20 at CommBank Stadium, with Penrith going down 34-10. The Panthers played a large portion of the match with 12 players after Nathan Cleary was sent off for a dangerous tackle – and would be suspended for the last five premiership matches.
In the third last round, the Panthers last gasp victory over the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium secured the Panthers second minor premiership in three seasons, and were awarded the JJ Giltinan Shield the following week after their 46-12 victory over the New Zealand Warriors in their last home game of the regular season.
With the aim of resting as many players as possible ahead of the finals, the Panthers sent up an almost unrecognisable team to Townsville in the final premiership match versus the Cowboys, heavily represented by their NSW Cup team and included four debutants. However, the much expected 38-8 loss was only the fourth of the season, and for the second year straight had recorded at least 20 wins in the premiership season.
In the opening week of the finals, the Panthers hosted the fourth placed Eels for the third western derby match for the season. Much was spoken about the Eels being able to make it three from three – a Nathan Cleary field goal was the only thing that separated the two teams in the first half, with Penrith leading 7-6. Parramatta led early in the second half with a penalty conversion, but after that it was all Penrith, running in three converted tries to record a 27-8 win – it was Penrith’s biggest ever winning margin in a finals match. It also saw them earn a week off and proceed to their third straight preliminary final.
Once again, just like 2021, their opponents would be who they faced in the previous year’s grand final. South Sydney led 12-0 late in the second half, but two quick tries tied it up at 12-all at half time, and then Penrith scored four tries to nil in the second half to win 32-12, and break the two week record of Penrith’s biggest ever finals win.
The grand final would be an all-western Sydney affair with Penrith to meet Parramatta in the biggest match to date in the rivalry, in front of the first full capacity crowd since 2019. Any hopes of a close contest were almost dead in the water as the Panthers played a near flawless opening half to lead 18-0 at half time, with tries to Stephen Crichton, Brian To’o and Scott Sorensen. A double to To’o and a four pointer to Charlie Staines stretched the lead further out to 28-0 at around the one hour mark. Two late tries to the Eels avoided a shut out, but the Panthers secured back to back premierships for the first time. Dylan Edwards, who two weeks earlier been awarded the Merv Cartwright Medal for player of the year also won the Clive Churchill Medal for player of the match.
Rookie of the year Taylan May, who missed out on the grand final due to injury, finished as top try scorer with 16, whilst co-captain Nathan Cleary once again was the top point scorer.
In the lower grades, both the NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg teams made the grand final. Both finished premiers, and the NSW Cup team the following week defeated Queensland Cup premiers Norths Devils to win the NRL State Championship. Alongside the NRL honours, and also winning the Under 18s SG Ball competition, it capped off one of the most dominant across the board performances from any premiership club.
On the representative front, Stephen Crichton made his NSW debut in the State of Origin series, whilst a large number of players were selected also in the mid-season Pacific Tests. Australia will play their first series of matches since 2019, and Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin have been selected in the Kangaroos World Cup squad, and all are in line to make their Test debuts during the tournament.