At what point do Penrith go from being a dominant side to one in the conversation for the greatest of the NRL era?
It’s a question that could well need to be addressed if the Panthers keep up their current form and reach a third straight grand final this year.
They go into Friday night’s clash with Parramatta in top spot, a position they have occupied on the ladder for 29 of the past 43 rounds.
Watch the latest sport on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
A victory will also secure more history, making them the first side in the game’s history to win their first nine games in back-to-back seasons.
In terms of teams through the 25 years of the NRL-era, few have been quite so unstoppable.
Penrith have won a resounding 52 of 59 games since the start of 2020, at a strike-rate of 88 per cent.
No other side can go close to matching them.
The current Melbourne side are perhaps the next best, winning 79 per cent of games and obliterating rivals by an average of 13 points per match.
Their team through the salary cap years of 2006-2009 won four grand finals, but still only won 75.2 per cent of games through that time.
And while the Sydney Roosters went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, they lost as many games in each of these seasons alone as Penrith have in the past two-and-a-half years.
And the scary news for Penrith’s rivals? The men from the foot of the mountains reckon they’re still far from their best.
“I feel like we’re still definitely building,” halfback Nathan Cleary said.
“We’re constantly an evolving thing, we always want to get better. We always want to be getting better.
“It’s pleasing we have been able to find ways to win when things aren’t going perfect for us.”
What makes Penrith so difficult to beat is their ability to grind teams down before powering home.
Unbeaten at home since August 2019, they have also won 46 games straight when leading at halftime, while also coming from behind six of 12 times.
“That’s been part of the evolution of the team,” Cleary said.
“We lost a lot of games when we started (poorly) a couple of years ago.
“But just the temperament of the team and some of the older heads we have in there like (Isaah) Yeo, Api (Koroisau) and Fish (James Fisher-Harris).
It just gives everyone confidence that if things aren’t working, it won’t take long to turn things around.
“It’s something I have learned over time – 80 minutes is a long time.
“Sometimes, once you get behind on the scoreboard you think you have to score straight away. That’s a trap you can fall into and it leads to even more errors.”
HOW THE GREAT NRL SIDES STACK UP
SYDNEY ROOSTERS (2002-04)
Played 82, Won 59.
Win-rate 71.95 per cent, average points scored 27.65, average points conceded 16.49.
Played 109, Won 82.
Win-rate 75.23 per cent, average points scored 23.96, average points conceded 13.32.
Played 165, Won 131.
Win-rate: 79.39 per cent, average points scored 26.43, average points conceded 13.44.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS (2017-19)
Played 81, Won 58.
Win-rate 71.60 per cent, average points scored 22.73, average points conceded 15.54.
Played 59, Won 52.
Win-rate 88.14 per cent, average points scored 21.59, average points conceded 14.78.
Source by 7news.com.au