Masked Panther: Burton to extend stay at Penrith?

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It’s not surprising that Penrith coach Ivan Cleary will submit a formal response to the breach notice handed to him by the NRL on Monday. Accepting the $20,000 fine for his post-match comments would be admitting that he questioned the integrity of the match officials, and Cleary legitimately believes that was not the intent of his comments. Cleary wants to make that clear before handing over any cash.

Suggestions that Penrith had ‘blocked’ Jack Hetherington from playing for the Warriors against the Panthers in Gosford on Friday night were way off the mark. While suspension will see Hetherington miss the game anyway, it was the aggressive forward himself who wanted to sit out the clash given the obvious conflict of interest. With the 24-year-old to miss the next month of football, it’s likely his loan deal with the Warriors is now done, and he’ll return to the Panthers.

An emotional Josh Mansour donned the flag of Lebanon after Penrith’s clash against Canberra on Saturday night, showing his support after the terrible explosion in Beirut last week. A moment’s silence was also held at Panthers Stadium before the match.

Josh Mansour pays tribute to Lebanon. Photo: NRL Images.

There’s plenty of people out there suggesting Matt Burton will head elsewhere sooner rather than later, given he can’t find his way into the top 17 at the Panthers. But I’m told Burton is actually on the verge of extending his stay with the club, keen to remain in the system and bide his time waiting for an opportunity in Ivan Cleary’s side. It’ll certainly shock some ‘experts’ when it happens, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers announce a new deal for Burton in the coming weeks.

Matt Burton scores earlier this year. Photo: NRL Images / Grant Trouville.

Are you missing grabbing a couple of Footy Doubles on the way into Panthers home games? Like everything during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nepean Rotary Club has found an interactive way to keep their fundraising efforts alive. You can now download a Footy Doubles app, which will allow you to grab some tickets for each Panthers game. Just search Footy Doubles on either the App Store or Google Play Store, and you’ll be cheering on first try scorers in no time!

The Panthers did their best to keep Daine Laurie’s first grade debut last weekend a secret, but several eagle-eyed fans knew something was up. A video posted on the club’s website in tribute to James Fisher-Harris’ 100th first grade game featured Laurie sitting in the background, with a jersey in his lap. That suggested a presentation had taken place and Laurie was poised to become Panther 596. I’m not sure why the club is so desperate to keep first grade debuts a secret, but they often go to extraordinary lengths to keep things under wraps. In the end Laurie only ended up playing the last six minutes of the game against Canberra.

Daine Laurie. Photo: NRL Images.

Panthers Stadium remains on the agenda for a potential overhaul or even a complete re-build. Deputy Premier John Barilaro is leading the push within the State Government for more boutique stadiums to be built around the State, similar to Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta. ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys is also pushing the plan, especially given the Government pulled out of the ANZ Stadium upgrade. With Penrith now a tight state seat, I’ll make an early prediction that the issue of a new stadium may emerge as part of the 2023 State Election campaign.

The 2020 premiership is a four horse race according to the betting agencies. The Roosters, Storm, Panthers and Eels are the only teams with a realistic shot of lifting the trophy in October according to punters. The Roosters are $3.50 favourites with Sportsbet, with the Storm and Panthers equal at $4.50 and the Eels at $5.00. Canberra is next best in the betting at $15.00.

Viliame Kikau’s try against the Raiders last weekend was Penrith’s 4000th try in top flight rugby league.

Heard something I should know about? I’m not good at keeping secrets but I do protect sources. Email me at [email protected] and let me know what piece of news you’ve stumbled across.

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