Masked Panther: Panthers eye UK prop

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There’s some talk doing the rounds that the Panthers may be talking with Castleford Tigers prop Liam Watts, possibly as a replacement for James Tamou next season. The 29-year-old has played close to 300 games in the UK, and while he does have a contract until the end of 2023, there’s whispers that an Australian adventure may be on the cards.

It was great to see so much attention surrounding Extra Time’s Peter V’landys poster last week. The poster was mentioned on Nine News, ‘Sports Sunday’, ‘NRL 360’, ‘The Matty Johns Podcast’, ‘The Matty Johns Show’, in The Daily Telegraph, on 2GB, 2KY and even radio stations in Perth. The great man was also spotted hanging outside of Panthers Stadium, and former Weekender journalist Dale Drinkwater even showed off her poster during a quick visit to Penrith. I hear the editorial team here at the paper are feverishly trying to think of their next cheeky promotion.

Our Peter V’landys poster made its way to Panthers Stadium.

Major sponsors were well looked after at Campbelltown Stadium last Sunday, with massive banners adorning the vacant seats and most usual signage commitments met by the corporate team. They got bang for their buck too, with impressive TV audience figures for the Panthers v Knights clash. Channel Nine had an average audience of 495,369 for the Golden Point thriller, while Fox League had an average audience of 242,048 – up four per cent on the Panthers’ 2019 average.

While the crowd was missing from last Sunday’s clash at Campbelltown, most of the usual game day features were still part of the afternoon. Zac Bailey was there as ground announcer, the team list video went ahead as usual and even the Panthers’ mascot was on deck – sitting amongst the cardboard cutouts on the eastern side of the ground. There was some pre-match drama though – I hear a member of Channel Nine’s crew was sent home after recording a temperature above the NRL’s protocols.

In sport and business, you often play the long game – which is exactly the approach Penrith officials took surrounding an upgrade to Panthers Stadium. With the ANZ Stadium upgrade now officially shelved, Penrith’s patience may deliver rewards with Panthers Stadium back in the discussion about an overhaul. And the person who could make it happen? None other than Peter V’landys. The ARLC boss is a huge fan of tribalism and suburban grounds, and has an ace up his sleeve as the State Government desperately tries to retain the Grand Final in Sydney. If he convinces the government to deliver an upgrade at Penrith, we won’t only print another poster – we’ll campaign for a statue!

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was quick to console youngster Matt Burton in the dressing room after Penrith’s 14-all draw with Newcastle on Sunday. A quick conversation was important to ensure Burton didn’t dwell on the five missed field goals late in the game. Cleary told Burton he was proud of him for stepping up to take the shots. “He’ll grow from it,” the Panthers coach said.

Matt Burton attempts a field goal. Photo: NRL Images.

The NRL last week confirmed it had reached a new agreement with broadcaster Fox Sports, with the pay television network to show NRL matches until at least the end of 2027. Channel Nine remains off-contract at the end of 2022. “I want to thank Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and Nine CEO Hugh Marks for reaching an outcome that puts the fans and the game’s future first,” said ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys. “Our negotiations were tough but always in a spirit of goodwill and shared ambitions for the betterment of rugby league. We could not have reached our May 28 restart ambitions without the teamwork and collaboration of our partners. These deals provide certainty to ensure our 16 clubs remain strong and that we can continue to invest in grassroots rugby league across our communities.”

Spotted: Veteran rugby league reporters Dean Ritchie and Brent Read swapping barbs while waiting for the post-match press conference to start at Campbelltown Stadium last Sunday.

The Panthers Shop has re-opened inside Panthers Leagues Club, with the club itself back in operation this week thanks to eased Coronavirus restrictions. Some good discounts are on offer, too.

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