Masked Panther: Uncertain times for NRL

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Rugby league finds itself in uncharted waters in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, with the competition dramatically shut down earlier this week. The impact across the code is massive, with hundreds of staff let go and major uncertainty about the financial viability of rugby league in the future. A lot of people have been asking me about Penrith. I’m being given every indication Panthers will survive the crisis, but the financial hit will be massive. Plenty of staff have already been forced on leave or stood down, including major names within the club. Right now, we all have to hold our breath and hope we all come out on the other side.

Spotted: Peter Wallace, Josh Mansour and Isaah Yeo catching up with old teammate Trent Merrin after last Friday night’s match between Penrith and the Dragons. While there was no love lost during the game between Merrin and his former teammates, it was all smiles once the full-time whistle had blown.

Peter Wallace, Josh Mansour, Trent Merrin and Isaah Yeo. Photo: Megan Dunn.

Prior to the NRL competition being suspended, the Panthers moved to shut down their usual media opportunities with technology paving the way for journalists to chat with players. Ivan Cleary, Dean Whare and James Tamou all conducted media interviews via Zoom teleconferencing over the past week. The post-match press conference with Ivan Cleary still went ahead at Kogarah last Friday night, but social distancing was well in force. Attending journalists at the presser were not even allowed to sit their phones and recorders on the table, with writers instead provided with audio after the fact.

Former Panthers boss and current Nine commentator Phil Gould has urged everyone to stick together during the Coronavirus shutdown. “Extraordinary times. Many will be hurting and doing it very tough following these developments,” he said on Twitter this week. “They’ll need support and kindness. Let’s all provide our share of both. We will get through this challenge. Australia will recover. Our game will bounce back.”

We all saw the scenes at Leichhardt Oval last weekend with fans desperate to see some footy despite being locked out, and it was the same at other grounds too. We spotted this die-hard Dragons fan outside the locked gates at Kogarah ahead of last Friday night’s game between Penrith and St George-Illawarra. Prior to the NRL being called off, I’m told Penrith fans were planning to cheer the side on from the fences surrounding Panthers Stadium when the side played Brisbane next weekend.

Photo: Megan Dunn.

Panthers members can expect to see some great offers from the club’s sponsors in the coming weeks. The club is trying to put together a collection of offers and discounts to not only keep local businesses strong during the Coronavirus shutdown, but to ensure Members have even more access to great deals during this period of uncertainty.

Panthers youngster Matt Burton certainly raised a few eyebrows with a saucy Instagram post last week. No harm done, but whacking that profile on ‘private’ may be a good move for the rising star.

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