Panthers to bridge 30-year generation gap

·2-min read

Not one player in Penrith's current squad was born when the club won their first NRL premiership in 1991, but the lessons of a grand-final loss will still be relevant to the young team.

The undefeated Panthers are the youngest team in the competition with not a single player over 30 in their side - the first since Melbourne Storm of 2010.

But with the foot-of-the-mountains club set to host a 30-year reunion of their first premiership-winning team on Friday night, there's a brewing similarity between the 1991 team and their modern-day counterparts.

Former captain Royce Simmons said losing the 1990 decider to Canberra made the team hungrier the next season, but even a premiership against the Raiders the following year didn't erase the pain of the loss.

He gets a similar feeling of determination from the Panthers this season after their heartbreaking 26-20 loss to the Storm in last year's grand final.

"You learn from that game, you learn how much it hurts you and I don't think before you lose a grand final you realise how much pain or disappointment you go through," he said.

"I don't think you want to go through it again if you get back there.

"The hard part is getting back there."

Simmons is still a regular around the Panthers and marvels at how professional NRL players are these days.

While he says the situation is comparable to 30 years ago, individually it's chalk and cheese.

"It's hard to compare a lot because we were part time," he said.

"If these players played us they'd beat us by 100, they're bigger and stronger.

"I'm not saying they're more skilful, but they're bigger and stronger and quicker.

"It's just like a new car, it goes quicker than one you had 30 years ago."

Halfback Nathan Cleary rubbishes that assessment from Simmons, although he hangs on to every word of the ex-Panthers hooker.

The wisdom and toughness from the club's ex-players are valued as much today as they ever have been by the Panthers' crew of Generation Z stars, even if they have little in common.

"In terms of players back then they were as tough as they come and a lot of them worked a normal job and then playing footy on the side as well," Cleary said.

"Just looking back on that, if we could be half as tough as what they were we'll do all right."