Dylan Edwards' State of Origin debut highlights staggering NRL truth about Panthers dynasty

Penrith's 2021 side is one of the most stacked in the NRL era.

Panthers fans can now call their 2021 premiership-winning side one of the best the NRL has ever seen as Dylan Edwards' impending Blues debut highlights just how good the team was. The Panthers dynasty has been something special, with Penrith winning the last three premierships and is in real contention of adding an unprecedented fourth in 2024.

The strength of their side in 2021 is up there with one of the deepest and most revered squads in NRL history. And come Wednesday that Panthers side will have its 13th State of Origin player when Edwards makes his NSW debut.

Edwards' maiden NSW jersey, coupled with Spencer Leniu and J'maine Hopgood's debuts this series, means the 2021 Panthers team, now has a full starting side of Origin players. But that stat is only scraping the surface. If you take into consideration Kiwis Scott Sorensen, Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris and Viliame Kikau's status as a Fiji-only player, the 2021 Panthers side has had 17 representative stars, putting their team among the elite NRL sides.

Dylan Edwards left and Panthers 2021 premiership winning side right
The Panthers 2021 premiership winning side can now consider themselves among the best to ever compete in the NRL. Image: Getty

Squads with 13 men who have represented their state in Origin at some point in their careers are extremely rare in the NRL era. Brisbane's 2000 squad is currently the most representative-laden since the Super League war. Of the squad of 30 players who won that year's premiership, a staggering 22 played Origin for Queensland or NSW at some stage of their career. While another player, Englishman Harvey Howard, also played Test football for a first-tier nation.


Melbourne's illegally assembled 2008 side also features amongst the most stacked sides, with 15 players entering the Origin arena at some point in their careers, along with two tier-one Test players. Also up there in the all-time great sides is St George Illawarra's 2011 team who had 13 past, present or future Origin players. But Penrith's 2021 crew can now officially stand alongside those teams, with 17 representative players and the potential for more to be added in the future.

Many players have left the foot of the mountain since then as with success comes an inflated wage bill and an increasing squeeze on the salary cap. The likes of Spencer Leniu (Roosters), Stephen Crichton (Bulldogs), Jack Cogger (Knights) and Zac Hosking (Raiders) all left following Penrith's 2023 premiership triumph. Api Koroisau, Kikau, Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell, Wayde Egan and J'maine Hopgood have all left in recent years. Jarome Luai will head to the Tigers and Fisher-Harris will move to the Warriors at the end of this season.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03:  Tyrone May and Dylan Edwards of the Panthers celebrate with the NRL Premiership Trophy after victory in  the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Come Wednesday Penrith will have a 13th State of Origin player from their 2021 premiership win when Dylan Edwards debuts for NSW.

Edwards admits he locked himself in his car and had a cry after his State of Origin debut in Game 1 was snatched away from him after doing training extras. But back to full fitness and recalled to the NSW side for Game 2, the Panthers No.1 is keen to make up for lost time and make Wednesday night an Origin debut to remember.

Penrith's star fullback has been knocking on the door for NSW selection for the past two years and finally got his chance when he was named to replace incumbent Blues captain James Tedesco for Origin 1. However, while training in preparation for Game 1, the 28-year-old suffered a quad injury, handing Tedesco a reprieve.

Edwards has battled for years to establish himself as an NRL player and, after finally getting an Origin call-up, the heartache of missing out on his debut hit hard. "It was the disappointment of working so hard for so long and then it just disappeared," Edwards told AAP last week

"I didn't really think about the future (and whether I'd be back in Blues colours). I was fortunate that my family and my fiancee were up there in the resort where we were staying. I just had a moment with them and then to myself where I let my emotions out. I don't really get emotional like that often, but it meant a lot."

Blues coach Maguire had no hesitation bringing Edwards back in to help NSW level the series at Tedesco's expense and Panthers captain Isaah Yeo says the fullback will have no concerns about throwing himself into the Origin furnace. "The tougher and the harder the game gets, the better he seems to go," Yeo said. "On the biggest stage in grand finals he is at his best and he excels and I don't think it'll be any different on Wednesday."

with AAP