Masked Panther: Leota, Martin eye Blues spots

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Penrith’s stunning season has resulted in plenty of Origin selection talk, with Moses Leota the latest Panther being considered for a shock NSW call-up. I’m told Leota’s chances of being in the final 17 for game one are somewhat slim but he’s a near certainty to be included in the initial 27-man squad for the November series. Fellow forward Liam Martin has also caught the eye of Brad Fittler, and as previously hinted he’s likely to find his way into the squad.

Liam Martin and Moses Leota. Photo: Megan Dunn.

Penrith has made the bold decision to play their Preliminary Final at ANZ Stadium next weekend – even if it means hosting one of the ground’s anchor tenants should South Sydney beat Parramatta. Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was heavily involved in the call, opting to back his side’s ANZ record which includes a recent 42-0 thumping of Canterbury. Penrith could have played the game at Bankwest Stadium, with Panthers Stadium not an option for week three of the Finals. Penrith’s Preliminary Final will be played on Saturday, October 17 at 7.50pm.

The Panthers have strongly denied making a formal complaint to the NRL about the scheduling of the Preliminary Final on a Saturday night. The club would have preferred to play on the Friday, but they accepted the NRL’s call. Suggestions of a formal complaint are fanciful.

Penrith’s nailbiting win over the Roosters last Friday night was even more excruciating for one punter. The TAB tells me the customer placed $15,750 on Penrith at $1.01 when they led 28-10. It was all to make a profit of just $157.50. He’ll be thanking Nathan Cleary’s field goal for as long as he lives. Meanwhile, Penrith are back into premiership favouritism at the TAB, now sitting at $2.50 after drifting to $3.50 prior to the win over the Roosters.

Panthers legend Ryan Girdler, who was critical of the club’s management during last year’s form slump, has phoned Panthers Chairman Dave O’Neill to clear the air and congratulate the club on the 2020 season. It was a big helping of humble pie for Girds, but he’s certainly not on his own in being red faced over criticism of Penrith putting so much faith in Ivan and Nathan Cleary.

The Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk has become a Thursday night institution and one of the great community events. Next Thursday the organisers will be hosting a ‘Panther Night’ and a number of club legends will be joining the men on their walk around the river. Luke Priddis, Trent Waterhouse and Craig Gower are all locked in for the event on October 15.

Luke Priddis with the 2003 NRL trophy.

It’s great to see some real Panther pride being shown around town at the moment, with a number of shopfronts already decorated in Penrith colours. BWS at Southlands, PRD Real Estate in Penrith and Stuart Ayres’ electorate office all have Panthers displays. I’m sure we’ll see an explosion of such displays if Penrith make the Grand Final with a win next weekend.

The maturing of Panthers centre Brent Naden – who at one stage was considering giving the game away – has been one of the real highlights of the 2020 season. Last week Naden reached out to former Panther Tyrone Peachey to show his support in the wake of a racism scandal that erupted in the final round of the regular season. Naden didn’t have to do it but after being abused by members of the crowd at Central Coast Stadium earlier this year, he felt he needed to show some solidarity to the Gold Coast Titans utility. Great to see.

Brent Naden. Photo: NRL Images.

A number of fans gave security guards a hard time at Panthers Stadium last Friday night when asked to wear masks in the bar lines or while walking around the venues. Security did a great job, but a few idiot ‘supporters’ either couldn’t read or chose to ignore the constant messages around mask wearing sent to ticket holders in the days leading up to the game, and widely reported in the media before that.

The team here at the Weekender are working on a Grand Final commemorative wraparound should the Panthers make the Grand Final. They’re keen to get your messages of support to the team to showcase – and they’re accepting entries now, which will be used if the Panthers make the big one. Send your message of support (50-100 words) to [email protected] along with a photo of yourself.

Major partner Hertz this week extended its sponsorship of the Panthers for at least another season.

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