Masked Panther: Cleary’s frank message over Nines drama

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The Panthers have moved on from the Nines controversy but coach Ivan Cleary delivered a frank and honest assessment to the NRL’s Head of Football Graham Annesley at a meeting in the days following the tournament and the refereeing drama that cost Penrith a spot in the semi finals. Cleary re-affirmed to Annesley how seriously Penrith took the tournament, and indicated that may not be the case next year. That’s not intended to be ‘payback’ for what happened – Cleary honestly believes it’d be difficult to get the team up for the tournament again after such major disappointment, and told Annesley as much.

Ivan Cleary addressing the media. Photo: Megan Dunn.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg met with Penrith officials last week, outlining what head office has in store for the coming season. As luck would have it, Greenberg’s visit to the club coincided with the release of the new ‘Simply The Best’ TV campaign, which became a key discussion point.

All clubs including Penrith have been briefed about the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak and what it could mean for matches this season. It’s unlikely at this stage games will be cancelled or played in front of empty stadiums, but anything is possible. What is likely is that players will stop meeting with supporters and taking photos post-match, which has become a fan favourite in recent seasons, in an attempt to reduce the chance of players catching the virus.

Phil Gould may no longer be associated with the Panthers, but he still has plenty of faith in the side. He put $1000 on Penrith to win the NRL Nines in Perth last month. You can imagine how filthy he was when a refereeing howler saw the Panthers eliminated from the tournament.

Phil Gould.

I’m told that Reagan Campbell-Gillard fell out with a number of players at the club last season, and one friendship in particular got a little nasty. One thing is for sure – sparks will fly when the Panthers and Eels meet in Round 25.

Which rugby league media personality was set to join the Penrith Board last year? It never eventuated, but was very close to happening.

Jarome Luai is on the verge of having a breakout NRL season, finally taking the number 6 jersey at the club in the wake of James Maloney’s departure. But the 23-year-old isn’t letting it all get to his head. He’s still living at home with his family in Mount Druitt and is refusing to move out until the mortgage on the home is paid off.

Jarome Luai in action in 2019. Photo: Megan Dunn.

Penrith officials have had an open and honest pre-season with the coaching staff and management out and about in the community speaking at various functions. Coach Ivan Cleary was guest speaker at a number of business and corporate functions leading into the season, as was General Manager Matt Cameron. It’s great to see such open communication from the club, especially after the horrors of last year’s pre-season.

Former Pantherette Caitlin Alderson has ended her association with the Panthers after many years. She started at the club as a Kitty Kat, then joined the main cheerleading squad and was named Big League’s Cheerleader of the Year in 2012. In recent seasons she’s been working with the squad as a choreographer. Alderson moved to Queensland over the summer.

Caitlin Alderson.

Former Panther Sam McKendry, whose NRL career was cruelled by knee injuries, has picked up work as a truck driver. A few people around town have been surprised to see the former New Zealand international dropping off pallets of beer at local establishments.

The Panthers have re-signed fullback Dylan Edwards until the end of the 2022 NRL season. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities this club has given me coming through the grades and now with this new deal,” Edwards said.

Spotted: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance mixing with fans on the hill at Penrith’s trial game against Parramatta in Bega.

Spotted: A loved up Isaah Yeo and his partner shopping at Coles Penrith.

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