The Penrith premiership project started with Anthony Griffin blooding the likes of Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Dylan Edwards.
Griffin was sacked in controversial and dramatic scenes a month before the 2018 finals series, after a fallout with then club general manager Phil Gould and amid accusations of player discontent, when the Panthers were still fighting for a top four spot.
But whatever the turmoil, the star Panthers' journey to the NRL promised land on Sunday night began with a debut handed to them by Griffin.
Cleary was just 18 in his first game in 2016, while Edwards and Luai were 20 when starting in the top grade.
The comparison is easily drawn to the Dragons current cast of young talent.
In the last round of this season, with St George Illawarra out of the finals picture, fullback Tyrell Sloan played his fifth NRL game, still a teenager.
Five-eighth Junior Amone is also 19, with 11 career starts and Jayden Sullivan, moved to hooker, has played six NRL games at the age of 20.
Mathew and Max Feagai are also 21 and Zac Lomax, with 49 games under his belt, just turned 22.
Can Griffin use the Panthers blueprint to build success in Wollongong?
And will St George Illawarra powerbrokers and fans have the patience with and belief in Griffin to see it through?
At the end of 2020, Griffin declared the Dragons had no plans of a rebuild and they were still in the top eight when the infamous lockdown barbecue at Paul Vaughan's started a late-season freefall to finish 11th.
The Dragons have added Souths' beaten grand final second-rower Jayden Su'a, George Burgess, Francis Molo and utility Moses Mbye, but were listed as the $51 outsiders for the 2022 premiership with Sportsbet on Monday.
Cleary's joy was the fact his premiership dream was achieved playing under his father Ivan, with the pair becoming the second father-son duo to win a grand final in NRL history after John and Martin Lang won the 2003 decider with the Panthers.
"It's special. It's not about us but it's special," Cleary said.
"A lot of people wrote us off but now to do it it's crazy.
"I have been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid.
"I was so grateful to play one NRL game and then to win a grand final is crazy, to do it with dad and the people I've grown up with is special." with AAP