I’m told Peter Wallace has gone from having no chance of securing a new deal with Penrith to being very close to being offered a one-year extension. With Wallace unlikely to be in huge demand from other clubs, the Panthers will most likely wait until their recruitment is finalised before seeing exactly what they can offer Wallace. If he does get a new deal, it’s an amazing turnaround for the 30-year-old who many predicted would be on the outer given his unsettled relationship with coach Anthony Griffin.
Still on Penrith’s halves, and there’s growing speculation that Jamie Soward won’t see out the final year of his contract with the club in 2017.
It will be a busy week for the Panthers in Christchurch ahead of this Saturday’s game against the Warriors. The team arrived last night and will hold an open training session at Christchurch Boys High School this morning. They will also participate in a skills clinic with local juniors at Hornby Panthers this afternoon. Tomorrow, the Panthers will visit a number of schools around Christchurch.
Is North Queensland star James Tamou Penrith-bound for the 2017 season? The 27-year-old, who has played 11 Origin games for New South Wales, has been linked with the Panthers for some time but gave the strongest indication yet this week that he’s on the verge of leaving the defending premiers, failing to water down speculation that a move to a Sydney club was imminent. The Cowboys are struggling to retain all of their off contract stars and only loyalty would keep Tamou at the Cowboys as the money on the table from Penrith is significantly higher than what’s been offered at North Queensland. If the Australian representative did move to Sydney’s west, it would ensure the Panthers had one of the best packs in the competition – especially with the talent that is coming through the junior ranks. I’m told Penrith officials are very confident that they’ll get the deal across the line before the end of the month.
Penrith are poised to announce the mid-season signing of Maroons Origin prospect Chris Grevsmuhl. South Sydney could release Grevsmuhl within days, allowing him to join the Panthers. The move has been on the cards for some time and Penrith recently made space in their salary cap by releasing Elijah Taylor to the Wests Tigers. Grevsmuhl has already signed with Penrith for next season and is struggling to get game time with the Rabbitohs.
A number of young Panthers have been named in the initial NSW Under 16’s and Under 18’s squads for the upcoming junior State of Origin games. Samuel Radovu, Sean O’Sullivan, Jesse Abbott and William Burns have all made the Under 18’s squad, while Lyndsay Smith, Zach Cini and Shawn Blore have made the Under 16’s squad. Blues and Penrith legend Brad Fittler will be coaching both teams.
Panthers will celebrate the club’s proud history and launch the Panthers Hall of Fame at the 50th Season Gala Dinner next month. The special invite-only event will be held on Saturday, June 25, at the Panthers Exhibition Marquee next to Panthers Leagues Club. On the night four Panthers greats will be revealed as the inaugural inductees into the Panthers Hall of Fame. An expert panel has already elected a shortlist of 12 nominees from amongst the 559 players to have represented the club. Over the next two months, through Pepper Money Magic Moments, the club will feature some memorable on-field moments for all 12 nominees. By voting for their favourite moment on the Panthers website, Panthers fans can go in the running for some great prizes.
Speculation is mounting that Bryce Cartwright will make his State of Origin debut this year, despite Blues coach Laurie Daley making it clear that loyalty will play a significant role in his team selection. The belief is that Cartwright has done enough to warrant selection for the upcoming series given his great form for Penrith and his performance for City last weekend. He would be a dynamite addition to the Blues’ bench, that’s for sure.
While I’ve never been a fan of stopping the NRL competition’s momentum after just nine rounds for representative football, there is little doubt that the appetite is huge for both Test footy and the City-Country clash. The crowds were great for both games and the TV ratings were sensational – 767,000 viewers tuned in on Channel Nine to watch Australia down New Zealand in a dour game in Newcastle while 369,000 people watched City-Country.