Masked Panther: Cleary’s heated call with journo

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Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was so angry about a scathing article written by The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent on Tuesday that he made the rare move to pick up the phone and ring the veteran journalist. The positive result was that Cleary agreed to clear the air with Kent on ‘NRL 360’ later that night, but prior to that agreement I’m told the phone conversation between the pair was exceptionally heated. Cleary took exception to a number of things in the article that he believed bordered on a personal attack.

Meanwhile, the fallout continues from Ivan Cleary’s discussion, or non-discussion, with referee Ashley Klein in the tunnel at half-time of the Panthers v Raiders match a fortnight ago. Fox League’s Andy Raymond is sticking to his guns over what he heard, and has copped plenty of flak as a result. Raymond is generally well respected around most NRL clubs and while he felt he was only doing his job by reporting what he’d seen between Cleary and Klein, it’s certainly left a few bruises, with Raymond stuck in the middle. In an emotional social media post last weekend, Raymond said: “I can walk with my chin up, my chest out and my head held high, in the knowledge I don’t and haven’t lied.”

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was full of praise for the Panthers at a luncheon held at the club last week in support of the Men of League Foundation and country rugby league. The event, hosted by Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson, also featured insightful interviews with Panthers legend Greg Alexander and coach Ivan Cleary. Greenberg spoke well, dusting aside the constant criticism he cops to talk the game up and speak about Penrith’s bright future.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg speaking at last week’s luncheon. Photo: Penrith Panthers

Penrith forward Frank Winterstein has been nominated for the 2019 Ken Stephen Medal. The 2019 Ken Stephen Medallist will be announced during Grand Final week, with voting now open on, providing fans the opportunity to select a nominee they feel deserves to be a finalist. This is the 31st year of the Ken Stephen Medal, with the award recognising the efforts of an NRL player who has not only achieved on the field, but has committed time off the field to supporting community projects.

James Maloney has failed in his bid to play against the Sharks on Friday night, suspended for a week by the NRL judiciary for tripping. It’s hard to argue that the system isn’t flawed when Maloney cops a week out while Sam Burgess, who knocked out Matt Moylan resulting in the Sharks fullback being forced to sit out a week, walks away with only a fine. Something doesn’t feel right there.

Spotted: Bulldogs legend Terry Lamb desperately trying to get photos with Panthers fans in the corporate area at Bankwest Stadium last Saturday night. Loves his Panthers.

Congratulations to former Penrith Panthers cheerleaders Brooke Bowne and Nat Sinclair who last week won $10,000 on Channel 10’s ‘Celebrity Name Game’. It was a closely fought contest but in the end Brooke and Nat took home the main prize, with the help of Anthony Callea and James Mathison.

Despite being a pretty ordinary game of football and far from a top eight battle, the Panthers v Bulldogs clash was the highest rating program of the day on Fox Sports last Saturday. An average of 258,000 people tuned in, while 251,000 watched the Sharks v Rabbitohs clash later that night. 193,000 tuned in for Saturday afternoon’s clash between Manly and Newcastle.

We’ll see Spencer Leniu and most likely Matt Burton make their NRL debuts against the Sharks on Friday but I’m also hearing there could be another late shake-up to Ivan Cleary’s side, with a veteran player potentially being dropped.

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