Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has praised his players for coping with the pressure of being the reigning premiers after they thrashed the Cowboys 22-0 on Friday night.
The Panthers won the 2021 NRL grand final and are looking in great shape to go back-to-back following an impressive start to the season.
They have slipped to just the one defeat against the Parramatta Eels and in recent weeks have put a heavy score on title contenders Melbourne and North Queensland.
Penrith were at their clinical best against the Cowboys, who had won six on the bounce going into the game, and Cleary saluted the spirit of his players.
"This is our first go at being premiers," coach Ivan Ivan Cleary said. "Everyone tells you that everyone gets up when they play you, and that's exactly what's happened from the very first game. Our boys have handled that so well."
The Panthers now face a tough test once again with State of Origin fast approaching. New South Wales coach Brad Fittler names his Blues his squad on Sunday night and as many as seven Penrith players could be in it.
Cleary had to cope with a similar situation last season and believes they will have learnt one or two lessons from that experience.
"We're probably a little bit more aware of it this year," Cleary added. "Just the experience around things like, you don't realise how different training is for six weeks when these guys are gone or come in for a bit and are gone on."