How Penrith’s young guns are reinventing the wheel

Talk to Ivan Cleary's Panthers and you'll quickly recognise a particular mantra ingrained in their thinking.

"Staying in the moment," son Nathan repeats as he recounts the club's stunning showing in 2020.

It's a philosophy that powered the club along a historic 19-match win streak to a first grand final appearance in 17-years, and one the playmaker believes they ultimately strayed from in the pressure moments of their capitulation.

But returning from their grand final heartache, the runner-ups are more committed to their unique formula for success than ever in 2021.

"I've taken a lot out of it," Cleary says as he reflects on the Panthers' 26-20 loss to the Storm.

"Just trying to take my opportunities but if they don't come just still focusing on the task at hand – staying in the moment. Play each play, and don't dwell too much on what's happened prior to that. That's probably the biggest focal point for me and the team to take out of it.

"It's something we've been working on for a while now, that's probably the reason why we went on that big run. Enjoy each win as you should but once you get to Monday, come in and try get better. Focus and stay in the moment at training and take that into the game.

"That was probably the most disappointing thing about the grand final. We were saying that and practicing it all year but on the biggest stage we didn't do it, myself included. That's something we can learn lessons from."

Part of the squad's commitment to their mentality can be put down to a special allotment of their training time to sharpening their minds.

Yoga, meditation and mindfulness training are commonplace at Panthers HQ, and everyone is on board.

"All of us practice yoga three times a week and mindfulness training too," Cleary says.

"If you practice it through training and games it helps you in the pressure moments. Just looking back at the big games I think it's more of a mindset thing for me. Trying to stay in the moment, play every play that comes. Try not to premeditate things too much.

"It's hard not to do sometimes. I feel sometimes when you make mistakes you go in and you probably go in with a conservative mindset. To be one of the best players in the game you've got to be confident in your ability and no matter what has happened prior you've got to stay in the moment and play what you see. It's something I'm working at and I'm sure it will help my ball playing which I feel is probably my weakness right now."

Ultimately, Cleary concedes that the occasion of the grand final got the better of Penrith, but the blossoming squad were only using that heartache as lessons in 2021.

"I think looking back on that grand final, it was probably uncharted territory for us given how well we were going last year,' Cleary says.

"When things aren't going right we need to focus on the task at hand and get back to what works for you."

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