Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The Penrith Panthers are coming off one of their best seasons in club history despite failing to win the premiership.
If they are to go one step further in 2021 then they will have to continue to perform at a high level, especially in these five games.
ROUND 3 – MELBOURNE STORM
Sweet revenge will be on the agenda for Penrith as they face the Melbourne Storm in a Grand Final rematch.
Not only will a victory for the Panthers in this one soften the blow of being defeated by Melbourne in the 2020 NRL Grand Final, but a win would set the foundation for another huge season for the Panthers and show the naysayers that the boys from the foot of the mountains are the real deal this year.
ROUND 5 – CANBERRA RAIDERS
Just two weeks after what is sure to be a colossal battle with the Storm, Penrith will go up against another premiership contender in the Canberra Raiders.
When all is said and done this one could be seen as a top two or minor premiership four-pointer.
It’s been hard to separate these sides in recent times, with their last five meetings going three to two the Panthers way.
The history between Penrith and Canberra has also added animosity to this fixture, as the Raiders defeated the Panthers in the 1990 Grand Final, before the Mountain Men turned the tables in 1991, beating the Green Machine to claim the premiership in 1991.
NEED FOR SPEED 🏃🏽♂️💨 Isaah Yeo believes fans will enjoy the impact of the @NRL rule changes in 2021.
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) March 1, 2021
ROUND 11 – SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Following the Raiders game, Penrith will have a run of games that they should win on paper until they come up against South Sydney.
We got to see just how lethal the Rabbitohs can be in their Charity Shield shellacking of the Dragons.
Penrith will certainly have their hands full against a fellow contender in what could be the game of the year.
This game will also be taking place at Apex Oval in Dubbo to continue growing the game of Rugby League in rural areas.
ROUND 13 – WESTS TIGERS
In the first “Battle of the West” to be featured on this list, The Panthers travel to Leichhardt Oval to face the Wests Tigers.
Tensions have been high in this fixture ever since Ivan Cleary left the Tigers and moved back to Penrith in 2019, putting a halt to the Tigers development and top eight aspirations for years to come.
Some fiery battles have since ensued, including their meeting at BankWest stadium during the 2020 NRL season, where the Panthers got the 19-12 against their local rivals in a tough game, sealed with an Ivan Cleary kiss blown out to all Tigers fans.
ROUND 16 – PARRAMATTA EELS
Over the past four seasons, the Panthers and Eels have emerged as two of the best teams in the NRL, as both sides have played in three of the past four finals and made it past the first week of the finals series on all three occasions.
As most people know they are also archrivals rivals as a result of the proximity between the two clubs and recent successes have only added to the hype.
Following a dominant victory against the Eels in late 2020, the Panthers will be looking to retain the Western Sydney Derby bragging rights in this game.