In 1963 the New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) established an Inter-District Competition – it was designed to complement the then Sydney competition with another ten teams based in the Sydney metropolitan area, one of them being a team from Penrith.
The other nine teams were Wentworthville, Arncliffe, Liverpool, Bankstown, Kingsford, Ryde-Eastwood, Sydney University, Guildford and Cronulla-Caringbah.
Their colours were royal blue and white and would play their home games at Penrith Showground. Former Balmain five-eighth Ron Clifford was appointed as captain-coach.
In the first season, Penrith were one of the front runners in the first half of the season, returning 5 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses in the first nine rounds. However, they could only muster four wins in the second half of the season and narrowly missed out on the top four at the end of the final round.
In 1964, the competition was re-branded as the Second Division, with a desire to perhaps create an English style promotion-relegation system. This was the year that the Panthers were adopted as their name, with graphic designer Deidre Copeland winning the logo design competition, with a panther leaping through the letter ‘P’. Gone was Ron Clifford and in his place was another former Sydney premiership player in Bill McCall, who was recruited from Parramatta and appointed as captain-coach.
In May, the Panthers were invited to participate in the State Cup, a knockout competition involving the 10 Sydney premiership clubs and a select number of other clubs. In a massive upset, the then Second Division front runners knocked off Canterbury at Penrith Park. However, they would be knocked off two weeks later against North Sydney.
In the second half of the season, the Panthers faltered and fell down as low as fourth but won their final three matches to finish third behind Wentworthville and Ryde-Eastwood, with 12 wins and 6 losses from 18 matches.
In the first week semi-final, Penrith defeated Guildford 15-10 at Ringrose Park, with forward Colin Piper scoring the match winning try with only five minutes remaining. They would advance to the final the following week but would go down to Ryde-Eastwood 17-9.
In the opening rounds of the 1965 season Penrith were based at nearby Jamison Park before returning to Penrith Park in May. At the halfway point, the Panthers were the competition leaders with just the solitary loss after nine matches. However they would get pipped on the minor premiership in the final rounds by Wentworthville and finish second.
In the semi-final the following week Wentworthville crushed Penrith 37-0 at Ringrose Park. But given Penrith’s second place finish they were given a second chance and faced off against Arncliffe at McCredie Park. Penrith sneaked home 12-9 to qualify for the grand final, where once again they would face off against Wentworthville.
In a one-sided decider Wentworthville recorded a decisive 31-3 victory with Paul Hatton scoring the solitary points for Penrith.
Come 1966 there were plans to expand the Sydney premiership with two new teams to be invited from the Second Division. Cronulla-Sutherland were to be one of the teams, and both Wentworthville and Penrith were vying for the second spot. As history shows Penrith were officially granted the second spot in July.
Meanwhile, in the Second Division, it had been reduced to an eight team competition with Kingsford and Bankstown withdrawing from the competition. At the halfway point, the Panthers were sitting in fourth spot with a three and three record. Weeks later when they were officially given the green light to join the Sydney premiership they had fallen outside the top four but somewhat buoyed by the good news they rallied and finished the regular season in third spot with 8 wins from 13 matches.
In the first week semi final they defeated Arncliffe and the following week defeated their fellow promotion partner Cronulla-Sutherland to earn a spot in their second straight grand final, once again against Wentworthville.
This time they erased the pain of the pain of the previous year with a heart stopping 2 point victory. Wentworthville led 7-3 at half time but three penalty conversions to Bob Landers in the second half saw the Panthers win the Bill Buckley Shield.
As a side note, Landers was one of 9 starting players that would form part of the first grade squad for Penrith’s debut year in the Sydney premiership in 1967, including former Kangaroo Tony Brown who would lead the Panthers out in their first ever premiership match on 2 April 1967.