Masked Panther: Waqa set to return

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Strike centre Waqa Blake is set to return for Penrith’s next home game against Manly on June 30. At a pinch he probably could have played against the Roosters tomorrow night but the club’s coaching staff will give him a little longer to recover from the ankle injury he suffered back in April.

Also set to be back for the Manly game is forward Viliame Kikau, who suffered a grade one MCL tear against the Raiders last Friday night. There were initial fears the 23-year-old had suffered a bigger injury but scans revealed he’ll only miss the one match for the Panthers.

While Peter Wallace knew for some time that his career was most likely reaching its conclusion, he first had serious talks with Penrith coach Anthony Griffin about mid-season retirement after the Knights game in mid-May. The 32-year-old could feel his body was letting him down after a tough and rugged career that was often halted by injury. Wallace will be remembered as one of the club’s great warriors. It’s such a shame he exits the game without a premiership ring.

With Wallace departing, James Maloney will officially take over the captaincy of the club. It’s a logical choice given his experience and leadership role.

Anthony Griffin is carefully managing his star players through the Origin period. Blues stars Nathan Cleary, James Maloney, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tyrone Peachey were all given the long weekend off after the victory over Canberra and missed Monday’s training session. Despite the short preparation ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Roosters, Griffin is aiming to make sure he doesn’t over-work his key men through the busy representative period.

The Panthers membership team will head to Queensland next month for a roadshow of sorts, holding a number of events for Penrith fans across the border. It’ll coincide with Penrith’s game against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on July 20.

A big congratulations to Jarome Luai and his partner Bailey who welcomed a little baby into the world last Thursday. Israel is a strong and healthy boy, weighing in at 4.2kg and 53cm long.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and James Fisher-Harris are locked in to play for New Zealand in next weekend’s Test match against England in Denver. Only injury against the Roosters on Friday will rule the duo out of the team. Dean Whare and Corey Harawira-Naera are also in contention to be selected.

Spotted: Injured Panthers forward Sam McKendry doing a spot of shopping at Southlands in South Penrith over the long weekend.

Spotted: Chairman Dave O’Neill out of the suit and in his sports gear at Panthers training on Monday. No truth to the rumour that he’s auditioning to replace Peter Wallace at hooker.

They wouldn’t admit it publicly, but I’m told a couple of the Penrith boys are really into ‘Love Island Australia’.

There’s a little whisper doing the rounds that the Panthers have been sniffing around to see who’s on the market to sign before June 30. If anyone does join the Panthers, it will be a depth signing.

It was great to see Reagan Campbell-Gillard on Fox League’s ‘League Life’ this week. Catch up on it if you can.

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