Petero Civoniceva almost instantly became a local hero.
He wasn’t born in Penrith.
He even put on that nasty Queensland jumper three times a year while he played here.
But when Civoniceva pulled on his first Penrith jersey in 2008, we claimed him as our own.
Stories of staying back after training, helping clean up, quickly emerged. Reports that he was the Mr Nice Guy of the footy team were confirmed by the way he spoke off the field, and by his efforts at various charity functions and events.
Civoniceva himself even admits he’s now a “westie”.
“I am determined to still have a presence down here,” Civoniceva said.
“But I consider myself a bit of a westie now so I want to make sure, in terms of junior development, that I help out and make sure it continues to grow.”
Civoniceva said he hasn’t given much thought to the emotion surrounding this weekend’s farewell match at Centrebet Stadium, but has many great memories of his time at Penrith.
“I’ve had some fantastic experiences here and I will focus on the good times,” he said.
“Unfortunately throughout the footy season you experience some downs but you have to move on as a group.”
Civoniceva has played more than 270 first grade games, and should he remain fit next season, play end up in the 300-club.
The big fella refuses to say if he’d like to be remembered as a Panther or a Bronco.
“I am just grateful to be playing,” he said.
“I always grew up wanting to play rugby league so to be able to do that as a career is a dream.”