Masked Panther: McRae goes solo

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It appears the Panthers have returned to the solo work of Scott McRae as far as game day announcements and hosting is concerned. In a shake-up this year, former cheerleader Nat Sinclair shared the duties with McRae for the opening games of the season but has now disappeared from the match day schedule. McRae has been the voice of Panthers Stadium for more than 20 years – first joining the club for the 1998 season.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard had a strong performance against the Dragons last Saturday night but it came after a week of major discomfort. RCG had his wisdom teeth out the day after Penrith’s game against the Wests Tigers last month and went several days without solid food.

Spotted: Panthers recruitment manager Jim Jones being treated like an A-list celebrity at Nepean Village on Sunday morning. Jones was swamped by fans wanting to have a chat about Penrith’s rise to the top of the table.

Four Penrith players have made the NSW Under 18’s squad ahead of next week’s game against Queensland at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Shawn Blore, Hayden Bonanno, Spencer Leniu and Maurice Trindall all made the squad.

The lead-up to last Saturday’s top of the table clash at Panthers Stadium had everyone pumped up, including the team at the Western Weekender who celebrated Footy Jersey Friday while raising a little bit of money for the Beanie for Brain Cancer initiative.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that rampaging young forward Jack Hetherington has a horrible judiciary record and he needs to improve his discipline. Unfortunately Hetherington has again been charged by the NRL’s Match Review Committee, copping a one match ban this week for Dangerous Contact on Paul Vaughan in last week’s clash against the Dragons.

Penrith have signed talented Tweed Heads brothers Brayden and Glenn McGrady. 21-year-old Brayden and 17-year-old Glenn have both signed two-year deals with the Panthers.

James Maloney’s incredible record at Panthers Stadium continues. The veteran playmaker has never lost at the venue – either as a visitor with an opposition team or in Penrith colours.

Phil Gould’s on-again off-again relationship with Twitter is… on-again. The Panthers boss is back with the handle @philgould15 – and has already been answering fans’ questions on a whole range of rugby league topics.

Spotted: Sports Minister and Penrith MP Stuart Ayres at Panthers Stadium last Saturday night with his partner Marise Payne (a Dragons fan). With more than 21,500 fans packing the stadium, it was a great reminder for Mr Ayres of how much fans want suburban footy and not the big stadium strategy for club football.

With so much on the line, it was no surprise to see New South Wales coach Brad Fittler make the trip to his old home town to watch the Panthers v Dragons game live last Saturday night. Ironically, Queensland coach Kevin Walters was also at Panthers Stadium – working as part of the Fox League team.

Talking of Fox League, Penrith’s match against the Dragons was the most watched game on Foxtel over the weekend. 366,000 viewers tuned in – a massive audience. The number was not a surprise but to be honest Fox League didn’t hype up the game as much as they could have. A few weeks ago, the pay TV network had a countdown clock to the Dragons v Storm game in the days prior to the match. No countdown clock in sight for what was a top of the table clash last Saturday night. Fox’s top commentators – Andrew Voss and Warren Smith – were also nowhere to be seen with Brenton Speed leading the broadcast.
Expect captain Peter Wallace to return to the Penrith side when they play Canberra in the nation’s capital next Friday night.

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