Masked Panther: Hook safe at Panthers

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Anthony Griffin is safe as Penrith coach. Forget what you read elsewhere, Griffin’s future has not been discussed by the key players at Penrith and the relationship between Panthers boss Phil Gould and Griffin is just fine. Gould is fuming at the recent media speculation surrounding Griffin. There has certainly been a different dynamic to the coaching structure during the pre-season with Gould and premiership winning halfback Greg Alexander helping out more than ever, but I’m told Griffin has generally welcomed the fresh approach. That’s not to say Hook wouldn’t find himself under pressure if the Panthers had a poor year, but any talk of him being shown the door is unfounded and silly speculation.

It was no surprise to see Tyrone Peachey confirm last Friday that he’s leaving Penrith at the end of the season. He’d been linked with the Gold Coast for some time, and the Panthers were supportive of his talks with the rival club despite the utility being under contract until the end of 2019. The deal with the Gold Coast is very good financially for Peachey, who will link up with former team mates Bryce Cartwright, Mitch Rein and Leilani Latu. “The contract at the Titans is a great deal and tremendous security for Tyrone and his young family,” Panthers boss Phil Gould said. Peachey will play out the 2018 season with Penrith.

Penrith will struggle to keep Josh Mansour beyond this season. With plenty of money to spend, Parramatta have made the 27-year-old an offer that the Panthers would struggle to match – and if Penrith did stump up the cash, they’d be paying overs. That’s not to suggest Mansour isn’t worth good money, but the Eels’ offer is out of this world.

Josh Mansour. Photo: Melinda Jane

Penrith is making its disdain for the proposed mid-season test between England and New Zealand in the United States well known to the people that matter. The game is proposed to be played in Denver in June, when there’s a weekend free of club footy due to the Sunday night State of Origin clash. Penrith could be forced to send Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Dean Whare half way around the world at a critical point in the season, and the club is struggling to find a way to give the idea a positive reception.

Talking of US trips, I’m told Nathan Cleary is weighing up a possible American holiday at the end of the year. But he may need to ask for some extended leave from coach Anthony Griffin – he doesn’t turn 21 until November 14 and would obviously be keen to let his hair down a little after what is likely to be a big season.

A couple of Panthers legends have secured new media gigs for the 2018 season. You’ll be seeing more of Ryan Girdler on ‘The Footy Show’ after he signed a deal with Channel Nine, while Mark Geyer is several weeks into his new shift on Triple M, hosting ‘The Rush Hour with MG’ from 6pm weeknights. You’ll also see more of Greg Alexander on ‘NRL 360’ this year, so there’s plenty of Penrith flavour around the traps.

The Panthers saw a very impressive boost in online membership sales for the 2018 season. It’s partly thanks to the draw being out earlier, and also due to the ease of the new membership website, which made the task of selecting seats for the season a lot easier than in past years.

I’m hearing the Panthers are considering introducing pet memberships in 2019.

You can expect to see plenty of speculation this year about Penrith potentially playing matches out of the refurbished Parramatta Stadium when it opens next year. However, I’m told any such move is unlikely with the current Panthers Board very adamant about ensuring the future of the club in Penrith, and potentially arguing for a new stadium in the future. You’ll notice a real focus on the local area from the club this year, starting with the stadium name (Panthers Stadium) and continuing with game day initiatives such as recognising local heroes. Also expect to see a new scoreboard at the southern end of the stadium at some stage this year.

We were very saddened to hear the news of long-time Penrith fan Mick Colbran’s death over the summer after a battle with cancer. We pass on our best wishes to Mick’s family.

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