Jamie Soward has declared the Penrith Panthers have the spine to go one better than last year and make the NRL grand final.
The Panthers have one of the strongest creative cores in the competition in veterans Soward and Peter Wallace forming the halves, last year’s surprise packet James Segeyaro at hooker and representative star of the future Matt Moylan in the custodial role.
Soward said the quartet’s combination had improved after a year, and a pre-season, together and had the potential to go better than last year’s heart-breaking preliminary final exit.
“I’d like to think I’ve got a better understanding of Matt and James’ games,” Soward said.
“I understood Wal’s a lot earlier because we’re older guys and we room together and spend a lot of time together.
“With the young guys, just keeping up with them is the main thing.
“We’re a tight-knit spine. You’ve got Isaac John there as well who can step in at the drop of the hat.
“Between the five of us, we’ve got a real good combination there and if everyone does their job right, we can go further this year.”
The Panthers will kick off their season with a grudge match against Canterbury at Pepper Stadium on Sunday.
It was the Bulldogs that brought their fairytale run to an end last year, one game short of the grand final.
The Panthers’ playmakers have had a disrupted pre-season with Soward (ankle) and Segeyaro (ankle) having minor surgery while Wallace is returning from an ACL injury which cut short his 2014 season.
Moylan, meanwhile, returned late after earning a call-up to Australia’s Four Nations squad.
“Wal coming back in different stages through the pre-season, he had to get his knee moving, we had him chiming in and then I had surgery and Chicko (Segeyaro) had surgery and Matty was in the Four Nations,” Soward said.
“Before Christmas we didn’t really have much to do with each other but after Christmas we got back together and I think we understand that we’ve all developed our games from last year.
“Everything’s looking good, I can’t say that enough at the moment, we’re ready to go.”