Where have the Penrith Panthers been since 2003?

It's been a long time between drinks for the Penrith Panthers.

They haven't seen the Grand Final since 2003 when they capped off a brilliant minor premiership-winning season with a victory over the Sydney Roosters despite entering the game as underdogs.

Hooker Luke Priddis was crowned Clive Churchill Medalist, though the game will forever be remembered for Scott Sattler's spectacular sideline tackle of Roosters winger Todd Byrne, who was rampaging downfield for a near certain try.

But that was where the glory would end.

They did finish in the top four the following year, before bowing out to eventual premiers the Bulldogs in the preliminary final, but the club would not play finals football again for the following five seasons.

A turnaround in 2010, however, saw the club rise all the way to second position at season end, though they were quickly bundled out of premiership contention early in the finals series.

Understandably, there was genuine hope that the Panthers would return in 2011 as a premiership force, but a season marred by inconsistency consigned them to yet another bottom eight finish.

It was at this point that the Penrith Panthers board moved to recruit legendary coach and media personality Phil Gould as their General Manager of Football Operations - a move that would prove vital to their success years down the road and a driving force behind their 2020 Grand Final appearance.

Their eventual return to finals football would take a few more years yet, but with the appointment of Gould finally came the significant personnel overhaul that was sorely needed.

He cut ties with coach Matthew Elliott at the end of 2011, replacing him with Ivan Cleary, before replacing Cleary with Anthony Griffin in 2016. Cleary oversaw two bottom eight finishes before taking the Panthers to the top four in 2014. They then crashed out of the eight in 2015, prompting Gould to look elsewhere for a coach. Griffin managed two finals appearances in his first two seasons without making the Grand Final and was sensationally sacked on the way to a third top eight appearance in 2018. His replacement for 2019, the man he had replaced, Cleary.

Gould also forced a host of local juniors out of the club including livewire centre Michael Jennings, captain Luke Lewis and impressive fullback Lachlan Coote.

He identified and recruited big name talents such as Jamie Soward, Jamal Idris, Elijah Taylor, Peter Wallace and Tyrone Peachey to see the club through its growing pains.

And vitally, he chose to invest heavily in Penrith's upcoming crop of junior talent.

Now boasting the impressive Panthers Academy, the club began to uncover and retain talent thick and fast - talent that would shape the heart and soul of Penrith's 2020 Grand Final run.

Josh Mansour, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brent Naden, Stephen Crichton, Dylan Edwards, Brian To'o, James Fisher-Harris, Viliame Kikau, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo... the list never seems to end.

Of course, Gould is no longer with the club and the credit for Penrith's success should quite rightly be shared among countless others. It may have taken longer than his original five-year plan, but those close to Gould at the Panthers will know the role he played in turning the club's fortunes around - and he'll no doubt have his fingers crossed for the club's third premiership.