Masked Panther: A-listers visit Penrith

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When ‘The Voice’ judge Joe Jonas and ‘Glee’ star Darren Criss declared they wanted to come to Panthers Stadium to watch last Thursday’s game against the Wests Tigers, Penrith officials were faced with a small conundrum – all seating in the Chairman’s Lounge was sold out. Some quick thinking saw another table added to the room so the pair could enjoy the hospitality before watching the game. The pair mingled with some of Penrith’s injured brigade and had the opportunity to head downstairs into the sheds post-match. The recently retired Tim Browne was given the official role of explaining the rules of rugby league to Criss, who watched the game with extreme interest.

Joe Jonas and Darren Criss with Penrith players

Scoop confirmed: As I revealed last week, winger Christian Crichton is leaving the Panthers. The Bulldogs have confirmed they’ve signed the 21-year-old on a three year deal. “Signing a player of Christian’s ability and potential is great news for Bulldogs fans. He provides us with a quality option in the outside backs and is part of our overall recruitment plan moving forward. We look forward to him joining us at Belmore next season,” said Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill.

I’m told Josh Mansour has been copping a ribbing from team mates over the way his re-signing was announced on-field at Panthers Stadium last Thursday night. With fireworks and a special introduction from Gus Gould, you can only imagine what’ll happen if Nathan Cleary re-signs at some stage during the season. Somebody book the marching band!

Phil Gould with Josh Mansour at Panthers Stadium last Thursday

James Maloney and Tyrone Phillips conducted a skills and drills session at Penrith South Public School as part of the club’s Adopt-A-School program on Tuesday. With the Panthers doing so well at the moment, the students loved the opportunity to mix with top NRL players. Other players visited other schools across the region on Tuesday too.

James Maloney visits Penrith South Public School on Tuesday

Panthers boss and former NSW coach Phil Gould has called on Blues selectors to recall Trent Merrin into the State of Origin side. Gould isn’t the only one who thinks Merrin deserves his jersey back – former Blues hero and three-time premiership winner Glenn Lazarus told Macquarie Sports Radio this week that the 28-year-old should be in Brad Fittler’s team. Merrin hasn’t played Origin footy since 2015. Other Panthers believed to be in Blues contention are Tyrone Peachey, James Tamou, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Nathan Cleary and James Maloney. The NSW team for Origin I in Melbourne will be announced on Monday.

Meanwhile, Gould says James Maloney should not just be the Blues’ five-eighth, but he should also skipper the side. Maloney is the current stand-in captain for the Panthers with Peter Wallace out injured, and hasn’t had a lot of experience with the C next to his name, but Gould told ‘100% Footy’ on Monday night that he believes one of the playmakers should captain the side.

You’ve got to give it to Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary. Despite his shock sacking from the Panthers in 2015, Cleary was more than happy to appear as a guest speaker at a Men of League and Panthers on the Prowl function at Panthers Leagues Club last Friday, alongside his son Nathan. Not only did Ivan give a great insight into the Tigers, but he was extremely complimentary of the Panthers organisation and current coach Anthony Griffin. It was refreshing to see.

Spotted: Panthers Chairman Dave O’Neill and CEO Brian Fletcher giving ARL Commission Chairman Peter Beattie a tour of the entire Panthers complex and Rugby League Academy last Friday.

Spotted: In-form forward Corey Harawira-Naera enjoying a pre-match feed at the Westfield Penrith food court last Thursday.
Congratulations to former Panthers half and Extra Time columnist Jamie Soward and his partner Madi, who are expecting their first child later this year.

Have you spotted a Panther out and about? Have some news or gossip you would like to share? Your confidentiality is assured! You can email me directly at maskedpanther@westernweekender.com.au.

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