It was the secret behind his success at the Warriors, and now new Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is banking on the Panthers' rich nursery of junior talent reviving the club's NRL fortunes.

Cleary's six years with the Warriors were characterised by his ability to develop talented youngsters into NRL footballers.

Of the Warriors' 17-man squad which played in this year's NRL grand final, eight players had been brought through the system by Cleary.

While seasoned internationals Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei were fledgling first graders when he arrived at the club in 2006.


Panthers officials have long been frustrated by the club's inability to transfer their junior rugby league dominance to the NRL - and have entrusted Cleary to finally make it happen.

Of the 17 that took to the field for the Panthers in their round 26 loss to St George Illawarra, only five players were local juniors.

"It's no secret it's a huge junior league out here and there's lots of kids playing," Cleary said on Tuesday.

"Over the years some of the juniors that have come out of here have gone on to become great players.

"It's certainly a key area in building the club ... but that's going to take time.

"It's a key strategy of the club to build from within."

It's why Cleary is not too concerned by the departure of veteran forwards Petero Civoniceva and Trent Waterhouse, or his club's limited recruitment drive which has netted the likes of fringe first-graders Chris Armit, Cameron Ciraldo and Clint Newton.

While he would obviously like to achieve success a bit quicker than the six years it took him to get the Warriors to a decider, Cleary admitted there was no quick-fix to rebuilding a Panthers side which has played finals football just once in the past seven seasons.

"I'm happy with the squad that's here - I'm more than happy with some of the juniors we've got and the depth coming through," Cleary said.

"It's all just about improving - just turning up each day and getting better.

"There's a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but you've got to start somewhere."

That somewhere was the training track on Tuesday, where new trainer Ron Palmer put the squad through a torturous workout in humid conditions.

"It was a tough session," centre Michael Jennings said.