Masked Panther: Where’s Jack?

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James Tamou is a fan favourite. Photo: Penrith Panthers

James Tamou has been named as Penrith’s captain for the rest of the 2019 season. The club made the surprise announcement on Tuesday afternoon, after coach Ivan Cleary had originally named a ‘leadership group’ for the season instead of a single captain. The leadership group still exists, and the club is adamant that it was always Cleary’s intention to name a captain from that group at some stage during the season. If you believe that, don’t forget to leave some carrots out for the Easter Bunny on Sunday morning.

Tamou’s appointment as skipper did raise some eyebrows given James Maloney had effectively taken on those duties over the first five rounds. There’s speculation aplenty going around about Maloney’s future at the moment but club sources tell me an early departure from his contact has not been discussed.

Mystery surrounds why Jack Hetherington can’t make his way back into the first grade side. The 22-year-old played 13 NRL games in his rookie season last year and is contracted until the end of 2021, but has been languishing in reserve grade in recent weeks. He was dropped from the NRL team back in round 3 to make way for Liam Martin’s debut, but hasn’t made his way back into first grade despite injuries and the squad’s poor form of late. The Panthers were originally spinning a yarn about Hetherington suffering a head knock and officials taking extra precautions, but it’s hard to fathom that’s true given how long he’s been in NSW Cup. He’s not even being named in the 21-man squad at the moment.

Jack Hetherington. Photo: Megan Dunn

Barring a serious injury, you can almost guarantee that Roosters star Luke Keary will take James Maloney’s State of Origin jumper off him for this year’s series. But despite what we’re hearing, I’m told Nathan Cleary is safe as the NSW half – at least for now. Blues coach Brad Fittler never expected Maloney and Cleary to be a long-term partnership given Maloney’s career is closer to the finish than the start, but he sees Cleary as the Blues’ number 7 for many years to come.

The Masked Panther was at the Easter Show last Friday and I’m happy to report that plenty of Penrith Panthers showbags were being sold. It’s good to see plenty of people adding to their merchandise collections!
Which leading NRL commentator has a very special parking spot reserved for him at Panthers Stadium?

Dylan Edwards is putting on a brave face about being shifted from his beloved fullback position, but don’t be surprised if you start to hear some rumblings about his future if he can’t get the #1 jersey back.

Dylan Edwards. Photo: Melinda Jane

Here’s a disappointing yarn with a very happy ending: At a recent home game, a young bloke in the crowd was having a rough time with a number of fellow supporters saying some not-so-nice things about his disability. The partner of Panthers forward Hame Sele heard about what was going on, and offered the young man and his family tickets to sit in the stadium’s family room to watch the next home game in peace and comfort, and to head to the sheds after the game to meet the players.

I’m told that Panthers prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard is a big country music fan, but he’s having a little trouble convincing his fellow team mates to get into the spirit. Chris Stapleton is apparently a particular favourite of the big man.

Which NRL commentator raised a few eyebrows at Panthers HQ over a negative Tweet last weekend? It’s not the first time the club has been disappointed with some of his comments about Penrith.

Dumped Panthers coach Anthony Griffin would have been considered little chance to carve out a career in the media given his rather quiet temperament and introvert-like nature, but ‘Hook’ is making a real go of it. He’s got a regular column in The Daily Telegraph, is working as a co-commentator on 2GB and even popped up as a panelist on Fox League’s ‘Big League Wrap’ on Monday night.

Former Panthers coach Anthony Griffin.

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