During a week of training, NSW captain James Tedesco understood why Penrith has developed a culture of winning over the past two years.
And it’s all characterized by Panthers winger Brian To’o.
The 22-year-old was seen without a smile despite the hardships he went through in his life, and his boundless energy rekindled the Blues’ camp ahead of the first game in Townsville.
“He’s a ball of energy, he’s very funny, he’s good for a laugh,” Tedesco told AAP of To’o and the Panthers.
“They just have good energy. This is how they play and this is how they have been playing together for a few years and had so many wins.
“They never seem down and if something goes against them they bounce back and that’s what has made them such a strong team over the past few years.”
The Panthers’ six players are popular within the Blues camp for their sincerity and talent after 17 straight wins last season in another 12-game unbeaten streak this year.
Halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai lead the ship with Isaah Yeo, To’o, Liam Martin and 18th man Api Koroisau.
These club combinations will be essential for the Blues on Wednesday night and no one knows that better than Tedesco.
For the first time since 2012, Tedesco is the only Sydney Roosters player on the NSW Origin team, whether for suspension, injury or concussion reasons.
He used to be flanked by Boyd Cordner, Angus Crichton or Daniel Tupou, but Penrith’s new generation of young stars will take the reins in Townsville.
“These combinations are transferred,” Tedesco said.
“We get together for about a week and try to build these combinations, but when you’ve been playing together for years… you know each other’s games inside and out and that really helps out on the pitch.”
After 13 games for the Blues, Tedesco feels the same bond with Cleary and Damien Cook.
“The guys I’ve played with for a few years now, like Nath and Cookie, you feel like you have these combinations and you feel that connection during games when you’ve been playing together for so long.”