Masked Panther: More social distancing scares

Share this story

Matt Encarnacion is presented with a jersey by Nathan Cleary. Photo: Twitter.

Journalist Matt Encarnacion is one of the rare Penrith supporters in the media, so we were all sad to hear he’d been made redundant from his job at AAP. Sunday’s game at Panthers Stadium was his final time covering a Penrith match. As a regular at Panthers games and media opportunities for the last five years, the club wanted to acknowledge his contribution. The boys got a jersey signed and Nathan Cleary presented it to him after the game. A wonderful touch.

The presentation to Matt did take a twist however. He was sent for a COVID test after a photo showed he was probably a little too close to Nathan Cleary for the presentation. Another journalist sent the photo to the NRL, which took extreme precautions by asking Encarnacion to get tested. The test was negative.

We’re wondering if Brent Read from The Australian was also sent for a COVID test this week. The photograph below shows he may have gotten a little too close to Cowboys coach Paul Green on Sunday at Panthers Stadium. Green has since moved on from the Cowboys, but was very much in the ‘bubble’ at the time the photo was taken.

Are Paul Green and Brent Read social distancing? Photo: NRL Images.

The ‘Matt Burton to the Bulldogs’ story is so easy to write and speculate about, but I’m not convinced it’s got legs. The Panthers have no appetite to let Burton go, especially to the Bulldogs given assistant coach Trent Barrett seems certain to sign a deal to coach the club. Any suggestion that Barrett is actively working to convince Burton to leave is ridiculous, especially given the way Barrett’s previous departure from Penrith unfolded. That’s not to say Burton won’t leave at some stage if he can’t find a permanent spot in first grade. With Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai locked into the halves and Tyrone May the obvious cover for any injury or suspension, nobody would deny Burton the opportunity to find a starting spot at an NRL club should things not unfold in his favour at Penrith. But I’m told the club is keen to ensure Burton remains on its books for 2021.

Talking of Barrett, his deal with Canterbury is likely to be finalised in the coming days. There’s no question Barrett would have heard the noise surrounding his potential departure, which includes plenty of warnings about avoiding the Bulldogs job given the club’s current predicament. But Barrett knows the Bulldogs have the money to climb out of the dire situation and the likely wooden spoon season 2020 will deliver. He also knows Ivan Cleary is safe as houses at Penrith, which means he’ll have to leave to pursue a head coaching role. And then there’s the money – I’m hearing the deal could be worth four to five times what he’s currently taking home at Penrith. Would those in the Penrith fan base being so critical of Barrett really reject such an opportunity themselves?

NRL players celebrated try-time in fine fashion last weekend earning the Men Of League Foundation $35,000. During the month of July Sportsbet is donating $5,000 for any try celebration that takes place and an extra $5,000 for some extra effort. Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary earned $5,000 for his ‘skeet shooting’ celebration and the online bookmaker bumped it up to $10,000 after his handshake with a teammate. The total is up to $55,000 with one more round left and the Men Of League Foundation, which provides assistance to those in the rugby league community, is set to receive a hefty donation. “There were some ripper celebrations on the weekend and we’re expecting even more for the final round,’’ said Sportsbet’s Rich Hummerston.

Nathan Cleary’s post-try celebration. Photo: Megan Dunn.

It was good to see James Fisher-Harris earn the three Dally M points for this ripper performance against the Cowboys last Sunday. It moves JFH to seven Dally M points, a better reflection of the dominant season he’s been having at the foot of the Mountains. Nathan Cleary is the top-ranked Panther at the moment with 11 points – just two off leader Harry Grant from the Wests Tigers.

Spotted: Alex Cullen from the ‘Today’ show on Channel Nine hosting the corporate function inside the Chairman’s Lounge last Sunday for the Panthers v Cowboys game.

Spotted: Panthers legend Mark Geyer recording video messages for loyal fans on ‘Cameo’.

Share this story