Penrith have declared there is no reason why the club’s NRL dynasty must end, with players having already set their sights on a landmark fourth straight NRL title.
The Panthers’ 26-24 win over Brisbane on Sunday was by far their most impressive grand final triumph, after Cleary guided them from 16 points down with just 18 minutes to play.
They became the first team since Parramatta, from 1981-83, to win three straight titles, and the only one to do so in the NRL-era.
But Penrith are already eying more history.
Only the great St George side that won 11 straight premierships from 1956 to 1966, and South Sydney from 1925-29, have won more than three in a row.
But none have done so in rugby league as it is today, since the introduction of limited tackles in 1966.
“We will give four in a row a real crack,” prop Moses Leota told AAP amid Penrith’s dressing room celebrations.
“After this big party we are about to have, we will go back to the drawing board, train hard and go from there.
“It (four in a row) hasn’t been done in a long time and not in the NRL era. The sky is the limit for this team.”
Leota explained the mindset that would drive the Panthers’ quest.
“The thing about our team is we don’t get complacent,” he said.
“We don’t look back. We always stay in the present. It’s what is next for us.”
Penrith’s grand final win has put them firmly in the conversation surrounding the greatest sides of all time, especially given no other such dynasties have been created in the salary cap era.
The list of Penrith’s departing players from the past four seasons would likely form a squad strong enough to make the top eight.
Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu join that list this summer, following others including Apisai Koroisau, Matt Burton, Viliame Kikau and Kurt Capewell.
Somehow Penrith continue their domination, having won 88 of 105 matches since the start of 2020.
Coach Ivan Cleary will tell his players all of that is irrelevant once they return for pre-season late next month.
“Pre-season will roll around and we’ll go again. One step after another. We have to go back, same as everyone else. This year will mean nothing,” he said.
Cleary has never been one to reflect on Penrith’s dominance, but even he had quietly conceded for a moment on Sunday night that the Panthers’ run may have been over.
“I was thinking that in the second half during the game. You start to go, ‘Ah well, we’ve done well’,” Cleary admitted.
“Then you go, ‘Don’t think like that’.
“I think the boys had every right to as well. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves.
“We could have easily rolled over. It was like a tidal wave, watching Ezra Mam scoring tries
“But then they fought. All those experiences of winning, and winning habits, and hard work …”
As he collected his second Clive Churchill Medal, Cleary’s son Nathan warned Penrith were “still just getting started”, as he contemplated more team silverware next year.
It raises the question of when might Penrith’s dominance end?
“The best thing about going three in a row is it gives you the opportunity to go four,” the halfback said.