Masked Panther: Cleary a crowd favourite

Nathan Cleary with fans last Friday night. Photo: Megan Dunn
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Nathan Cleary may have missed last Friday night’s game at Panthers Stadium but he was still a crowd favourite at the match. Cleary spent plenty of time speaking with young fans, signing autographs and taking photos. The 21-year-old is copping it from some sections of the Penrith fan base for his on-field performances (often unfairly), but nobody can deny the extraordinary benefits his profile brings to the club.

A spanner has been thrown in the works when it comes to the future of James Maloney, who may now be facing a diet of croissants instead of warm beer. Maloney is all but certain to leave Penrith at the end of the season after two stand-out years, and has always wanted to finish his career overseas. While Leeds in the UK are the favourites to snare his signature, France-based club Catalan Dragons have now confirmed their interest in the Origin winner.

Which one-time Panthers powerbroker has fallen out with a number of key figures at the club? There’s a chance it could turn ugly.

Did Penrith City Council try to astronomically increase the rent the Panthers pay to lease the stadium they’ve called home since 1967? That’s the rumour doing the rounds – apparently it won’t be happening given how much Panthers pay to maintain and manage the ground each year.

Former Panthers lower grade coach Garth Brennan was a dead man walking for some time. Ironically, his last game in charge of the Titans was against his former club last Friday night. It’s my understanding Brennan lost the dressing room at the Titans some time ago and was the subject of a player revolt, which was impossible to recover from. Brennan had dinner with his former boss, Phil Gould, some six weeks ago and even then he knew his time was limited.

Poor old Viliame Kikau was doing it tough against the Titans last Friday night. The powerhouse forward was battling gastro, which significantly limited his game time and saw him exit the field immediately after full-time, skipping the celebrations. The 24-year-old should be fighting fit for Friday night’s game against the Dragons at Panthers Stadium.

Former Panthers General Manager and Premiership winning coach Phil Gould is returning to radio. ‘Gus’ has signed a deal with Macquarie Sports Radio that will see him present a Saturday morning program from 9am, starting this weekend. Gould is also making regular appearances on the Steve Price Show on 2GB, part of the Macquarie stable. Gould has done plenty of radio work over the years on 2GB, 2UE and Triple M, and his new show is likely to be a big boost to Macquarie Sports Radio’s profile.

Plenty of people got behind Men of League last Friday and attended a special function at Panthers Leagues Club, raising money and awareness for the highly respected organisation. Among the guest speakers was former Panthers captain Kevin Kingston.

Kevin Kingston speaking at the Men of League function. Photo: Megan Dunn

An emotional John Cartwright presented son Jed with his first NRL jersey in the sheds at Panthers Stadium last Friday night. This week happened to mark 34 years since Cartwright himself made his first grade debut on the same ground. While the former Panthers premiership winner could have enjoyed the comforts of the corporate facilities to watch Jed’s first game, he opted to head to the hill – watching on with dozens of friends and family members.

Tyrone May was back in court this week as the club’s pre-season sex tape scandal continues to linger. This time he was hit with fresh charges and now faces eight charges in total over the scandal. May has entered a not guilty plea on the initial four charges but is yet to enter a plea on the fresh offences.

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