Penrith will begin the defence of their NRL premiership without star halfback Nathan Cleary as he continues to recover from a shoulder operation.
The Panthers won last season's grand final, beating South Sydney Rabbitohs, and they are priced at 9/2 to go on a win it again in the 2022 campaign.
However they will have to start the season without the influential Cleary as the club medicos are keen to ensure he has fully recovered from shoulder surgery.
Cleary damaged his shoulder playing for New South Wales in State of Origin last season but thankfully for the Panthers they managed to patch him up for the rest of the season.
Cleary then played a huge a role in helping the Panthers win the Premiership before undergoing surgery to fix the issue in the close season.
The surgery was a success and Cleary is on the way back. However with another gruelling season on the cards, the Panthers are not willing to take any risks on him.
Sean O'Sullivan, who has arrived from the Warriors, is now expected to play alongside Jarome Luai in the halves while Cleary fully recovers.
"With a long and challenging season ahead of us, it's critical that we give Nathan the time he needs to return at his physical best," coach Ivan Cleary said.
"While it's obviously a difficult decision and of course we would have loved to have him out there, we believe this will ensure Nathan has the best opportunity to play throughout the year at the level he demands of himself."
The Panthers will play South Sydney in round four in a repeat of the grand final and all being well Cleary will make his return in that game.