Masked Panther: Hetherington to Dragons?

Jack Hetherington at training. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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The rugby league rumour mill is in full swing as the June 30 deadline for player movements edges closer. Penrith forward Jack Hetherington, who had a breakout 2018 season but has hardly been seen in 2019, has been linked with the Dragons as Paul McGregor tries to fill the gap left by Jack de Belin. 22-year-old Hetherington, who should consider applying for a permanent parking spot at League Central given his relationship with the judiciary, could add some mongrel to St George-Illawarra’s pack. Despite having one foot out the door, Hetherington was spotted training with Penrith’s first grade squad on Monday.

The Dallin Watene-Zelezniak saga appears days away from being over with the New Zealand skipper set to join Wests Tigers with immediate effect. Watene-Zelezniak, who was still training with Penrith on Monday, wants out of the club after a rumoured falling out with coach Ivan Cleary. It’s understood that Cleary and Tigers coach Michael Maguire have been personally involved in the 23-year-old’s likely transfer to Concord, with the possibility of a player swap also in the mix.

A major pectoral injury has ended the career of Penrith forward Tim Grant. The 31-year-old confirmed on Wednesday that he has terminated his playing contract, effective immediately. The decision is a selfless act from a local junior who has given Panthers outstanding service, on and off the field, throughout nine seasons at the club. In the end, Grant will have played 129 NRL games for Penrith.

Panthers forward Tim Grant. Photo: Megan Dunn

Spotted: Reagan Campbell-Gillard grabbing a meal at Henri Marc in Penrith.

There’s a real test for footy fans on Sunday with three grades being played at Panthers Stadium including the NRL clash between Penrith and the Roosters. Everyone loves to talk about ‘the good old days’ when you could watch all three grades, so here’s a chance for crowds to prove it’s not just a myth and fans do actually want to head to the ground and experience such a line-up. Gates on Sunday open at 11.45am with Jersey Flegg underway at Midday and Canterbury Cup at 1.50pm, followed by the NRL at 4.05pm.

The fun continues after the game too with members and fans being given the chance to meet the Panthers in TC’s Backyard at Panthers Leagues Club following the game, from around 7pm. Bring your jersey to get signed, grab a selfie and have a chat with your favourite Panthers. The meet and greet is part of the Winterfest Long Weekend Family Carnival which will include a fireworks display at 7.30pm.

The media and marketing teams at Panthers have been burning the candle at both ends and working overtime this week after Marketing Manager Darren Micallef pulled off one of the year’s most extraordinary Houdini acts by disappearing mid-season. An investigation is underway to find out who granted the annual leave – usually impossible to achieve during the footy season.

Spotted: Former Panther Corey Harawira-Naera, now at the Bulldogs, in the crowd watching the Penrith v Manly match last Thursday night.

Spotted: Panthers coach Ivan Cleary on the training paddock on Monday kicking field goals. He’s still got it.

The NRL has admitted The Bunker got it wrong when it awarded a penalty to Manly as part of a controversial ‘no try’ call last Thursday night. While the ‘no try’ decision was most likely correct, Penrith should have been awarded a play-the-ball 10 metres out rather than being forced to defend a set after The Bunker ruled obstruction. In the end, it mattered little to the end result.

Spotted: What a difference a year makes. On Tuesday, we spotted James Maloney shopping with his family at K-Mart, looking for new clothes for his kids. Just 12 months earlier he was preparing with New South Wales for the 2018 State of Origin series.

Footy fans will be able to save lives and help their club earn bragging rights thanks to the Battle of the West Blood Rivals Competition. Run by Red25, the group donation program of the Red Cross Blood Service, the competition sees fans of the Bulldogs, Eels, Tigers and of course Penrith battle it out to see who can score the most blood donations between now and August 31. Call 13 14 95 to make an appointment.

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