Masked Panther: Panthers comment on Tamou rumours

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Could Panthers captain James Tamou be heading to England next year? Stories emerged this week that the 31-year-old was in the sights of Super League club St Helens. Penrith’s General Manager Matt Cameron was remaining tight-lipped when asked about the rumours on Tuesday. “I did see that article and James is off-contract at Panthers this year but we don’t comment publicly on recruitment and retention matters. James has been fantastic and has really grown as a leader the last couple of years and assumed that role of team captain really well,” Cameron said.

James Tamou. Photo: Megan Dunn.

It’s safe to say Ivan Cleary didn’t expect to be back in the home coach’s box at Campbelltown Stadium any time soon, but strange times call for unique solutions. The former Wests Tigers coach will call Campbelltown home again, with Penrith to host games at the venue until at least Round 9. It’s understood Panthers Stadium was considered to be a host venue, but the NRL eventually settled on Campbelltown Stadium, Bankwest Stadium and Central Coast Stadium to house the Sydney clubs.

Isaah Yeo arrives at training on Monday. Photo: Instagram.

It’s good to see the players still in good spirits despite the very different situation they find themselves in at present. On Monday, players arrived at the Rugby League Academy in dress-up – adding a bit of Hollywood and international sporting flair to the day’s work. Some of the best were posted on Instagram. I’m told James Fisher-Harris spearheaded the fun idea.

Last week I told you about Paul Kent’s reporting on the Nathan Cleary saga, and suggestions that Cleary had not been at home when his infamous TikTok video was recorded. Kent was wrong, and The Daily Telegraph quickly changed his story online and caught it in time for the major print run. Now, the ‘NRL 360’ co-host has apologised. In a column last weekend, he said: “It was wrong. The story was caught and corrected but not before it was online for an hour and hit the first edition. So I apologise.”

Fox League will return to normal programming next week, with ‘NRL 360’ to spearhead its restarted coverage of rugby league at 6.30pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. ‘Fox Theatre’ will air at 7.30pm on Monday, ‘The Fan’ continues on Tuesdays while ‘The Matty Johns Podcast’ is back on Wednesday before Fox airs all eight Round 3 games live next weekend. Matty Johns’ Thursday and Sunday programs also roll on, while ‘The Big League Wrap’ is back Sunday nights from 9.30pm.

I’m told the staff at ‘Big League’ are extremely doubtful the magazine will return next year, after it was officially shelved for the rest of 2020. It’d be a shame to lose the publication, which provides a largely positive coverage of the game and has been around for a century. But the NRL’s cost cutting (head office pays News Limited to produce the publication) combined with the current print landscape makes the path to returning a very difficult one.

The TAB has installed Penrith as favourites for next weekend’s clash against Newcastle, despite Nathan Cleary being stood down. The Panthers are $1.67, while Newcastle are $2.20. Meanwhile, the Panthers are $13 to win the premiership. Canberra remain the competition favourites at $5.00.

With so many major sports around the world on hiatus, the NRL will be beamed into more international lounge rooms from next weekend. Sky Sports UK will now broadcast all eight NRL games in Rounds 3 and 4 live, while France’s BeIN Sports has increased its coverage to four live games per weekend. ESPN is believed to be looking at taking the NRL in the US.

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