Masked Panther: Dally M shambles

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The Panthers were fuming over the way the Dally M Medal unfolded on Monday night, particularly surrounding the leaking of the winner accidentally by The Daily Telegraph hours before the official announcement. Nathan Cleary was asked to attend the virtual ceremony at Fox Sports’ Artarmon studios, and happily obliged despite it being Grand Final week. It wasn’t about the travel to the studios as much as it was the extra disruption given current COVID-19 protocols, which saw both Nathan and coach Ivan Cleary forced to be tested for the virus before they could attend. For the winner to then be revealed by a newspaper before the ceremony even started was an embarrassment and raised questions about the way organisers handled Cleary’s involvement. It’s my understanding that a Penrith official texted Ivan Cleary to alert him of the leak – but he chose not to tell Nathan.

James Tedesco, Clint Gutherson, Jack Wighton and Nathan Cleary watch the Dally M Medal count unfold.

The publishing of the Dally M story early on the Telegraph’s website is unfortunate but it’s only part of the problem. ‘NRL 360’ went to air live on Monday night at 6.30pm with Phil Rothfield and Paul Kent on the panel discussing the Dally M Awards and potential winners, yet it seems both already knew the winner. That destroys much of the flagship rugby league show’s credibility.

Spotted: Josh Mansour and Kurt Capewell patiently waiting outside ANZ Stadium for the bus carrying the rest of the Penrith squad to arrive last Saturday. Thanks for the wave, Sauce!

Spotted: Dean Whare hasn’t been able to force his way back into the starting 17 for some time now but he’s still in the NRL bubble and following all the right protocols. He was out and about getting some sushi last Saturday – stringently following the biosecurity guidelines.

Ivan and Bec Cleary.

Ivan Cleary’s had a busy season in charge of the Panthers but he’s also expanding his business interests elsewhere. Together with wife Bec, he is opening a franchise of Pinot & Picasso in Newport. Hopefully one of the first things painted by customers is a giant Panther!

The Panthers very quickly released a Grand Final t-shirt soon after full-time last weekend, and fans rushed to buy it, with online stock sold out within 24 hours. Let’s hope there’s still one more shirt to add to the cupboard this year!

Spotted: One of the girls in Nathan Cleary’s infamous TikTok video cheering Penrith to victory at ANZ Stadium last Saturday night.
Spotted: Former Panthers forward Sam McKendry buying a Penrith jersey in Rebel Sport at Westfield last weekend.

Panthers Leagues Club has been restricting access to members only this week and that will continue on Grand Final Day. The club is expected to be at capacity for the game, especially given COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.

Panthers Stadium will be used as a live site for Sunday’s Grand Final, with thousands expected to head to the stands and field to watch the game unfold on the big screens. Food outlets and bars will be open and there will be amusement rides.

Penrith players are planning a mid-afternoon basketball game at the Panthers Academy on Sunday to calm the nerves ahead of the Grand Final. It’s an unconventional lead-in to such a big game but this type of relaxed attitude has worked all season and coach Ivan Cleary isn’t about to put the brakes on it now.

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