Panthers not fazed by talk of their NRL demise

Ivan Cleary argues Penrith are hitting the peak of their careers as they face up to the prospect of defending their NRL premiership without two key pillars of their recent success.

The Panthers begin their title defence at home against Brisbane on Friday and there will be watchful eyes on hooker Mitch Kenny and back-rower Luke Garner, who are tasked with replacing Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau respectively.

Coach Cleary's side is used to having players picked off by rival clubs each season but the off-season loss of Kikau's devastating power and Koroisau's guile around the ruck has many pundits predicting its demise in 2023.

"I think it's an obvious thing to say that we (will fall behind) when you lose guys of that calibre," Cleary said.

"We lost some the year before that as well.

"It's just natural that would be said. But the thing about this time of year is everyone's got predictions that are really worthless.

"You can only go off peoples' roster and by the looks of it, ours is weakened because of those guys (leaving).

"But the guys we still have, we feel like they're right in the sweet spot of their careers and also the chemistry should hopefully improve as we go along."

The Penrith coach has also seen assistant coaches Cameron Ciraldo and Andrew Webster depart for head coaching gigs elsewhere.

"They've earned those roles," Cleary said.

"I guess coaches are a little bit like players, it's sad to see them go but it's a little milestone of success for everyone at our club."

Penrith's depth has already been tested early in the year with young winger Taylan May sidelined for the season after picking up an ACL injury in the World Club Challenge loss to St Helens.

Fijian winger Sunia Turuva has taken his spot in an otherwise settled line-up which will be aiming to win a third-straight premiership .

No side has been able to manage that feat since the Parramatta sides of the mid-1980s but the Penrith coach isn't rushing out to buy a Jack Gibson-style fur coat.

"It's fairly obvious the opportunity there, but it's really not worth mentioning or talking about right now," Cleary said.

"As with each season, it's a journey of 1000 steps."