Despite time running out to fulfil his fabled five-year plan, Penrith supremo Phil Gould says the air of optimism swirling around the club is deserved.
Not only will the 2016 NRL season mark the Panthers’ 50th year, it will mark Gould’s fifth in charge of the club as general manager.
When he took over in 2011, he claimed that it would take half a decade to clean up the club and lift it from the doldrums.
Heading into the new campaign, the club has ticked off every box on its to-do list – expect lift the Provan-Summons Trophy.
With their front office in order, some of the best young talent in the country on their books and a number of junior and reserve grade titles won, Gould said the fruits of the club’s labour are beginning to show.
“In the last three years we’ve won two NYC titles, a NSW Cup title,” Gould said at the Panthers’ season launch on Thursday.
“We’ve produced more first grade players in the last three years than any club in the competition.
“And we’ll do that forever more, that’s our charter.”
One of the key planks of Gould’s strategy for the region is the Panthers Academy, which is due to open around Easter.
Penrith’s junior base is the largest in the country but they believe they have yet to properly tap into it.
With the likes of skipper Matt Moylan, back-rower Bryce Cartwright, centre Waqa Blake, prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard and the Jennings brothers, George and Robert, coming of age, the club have a roster which bodes well for the future.
But there’s no avoiding the fact that they`ve largely underachieved over since winning the premiership in 2003.
While they came within a game of making the 2014 grand final, they have made just one finals appearance the last five years and were big disappointments in finishing 11th last season.
Gould took a big gamble in axing coach Ivan Cleary but he insists ex-Brisbane mentor Anthony Griffin, who was sacked by the Broncos to make way for Wayne Bennett at the end of 2014, has the right qualities to get the best out of the squad.
“With the age of our players and the quality of the team that we have here at the moment, I believe that (Griffin) was the right man at the right time to come to this club,” Gould said.
“He is the coach that our players needed and this club needed for the future.”
“I know it’s a wonderful era that we’re going into.”