Masked Panther: Sauce’s last dance?

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Sunday’s Grand Final loss may be even tougher for veteran Panthers winger Josh Mansour. Everything I’m hearing points to ‘Sauce’ leaving the club before the start of next season, with Charlie Staines the favourite to take his wing spot in 2021. 30-year-old Mansour is still contracted to Penrith next season but he may find a longer term deal elsewhere given the writing is on the wall at Penrith.

A dejected Josh Mansour after the Grand Final. Photo: NRL Images.

Penrith players gathered at a private function at the EVAN Theatre at Panthers in the hours after the Grand Final on Sunday night. It was a largely subdued affair but the players also ensured they celebrated what was a very successful season. The stars of the night were the Penrith WAGS who were, I hear, the last people standing at the after party. The players continued to reflect on the season through the week, with plenty of Vodka Cruisers being consumed.

Panther fans shouldn’t worry about rumours doing the rounds suggesting Stephen Crichton is a chance of heading to the Bulldogs in 2022. The exciting centre is staying at Penrith. Put it in concrete, he’s going nowhere. Expect a formal announcement inside the next month.

Stephen Crichton runs out onto ANZ Stadium in the Preliminary Final. Photo: NRL Images.

Spotted: Former Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns rocking a pink Panthers jersey at the Grand Final. He was sitting in Bay 108 and lapping up the atmosphere at ANZ Stadium.

Spotted: Penrith coach Ivan Cleary making the effort to come over to fans in the stands on Sunday night to show his appreciation for the support this year. He looked devastated by the result.

Technology caught out ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys last week. The saviour of rugby league was taking part in a function for VIPs and major sponsors last Thursday night, when he publicly backed the Panthers in the Grand Final. V’landys thought he was safe with the all-Sydney crowd, before he was told that Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, captain Cameron Smith and a number of Storm officials were watching the function via Zoom.

How’s this for an expensive bite to eat. A lucky local paid $15,000 at Penrith’s Grand Final luncheon last Friday to have a lunch with Panthers legends Royce Simmons and Greg Alexander. We hope Royce brings his own beer.

Spotted: Residents at Southern Cross Care’s Thornton Park aged care facility dressed up and excited for the Grand Final (pictured above). They all have such fond memories of the players throughout the years and it was a great week for them to reminisce and celebrate the team’s achievements this year. A number of the residents have direct links to players from the past. So many have great memories of attending games over many decades. This is what it’s all about.

Southern Cross Care residents cheering on the Panthers.

It’s often a poisoned chalice but Sportsbet has posted Penrith as Premiership favourites for next season, ahead of the Roosters and Storm. “The Panthers showed a lot of ticker against the Storm and no doubt nerves were a factor in the first half. They’re a young side and will be better for the experience and everything points to them being in next season’s battle for the silverware,’’ said’s Rich Hummerston.

Meanwhile a lucky punter collected $60,030 from the TAB after the Grand Final after a $30 same game multi landed. He backed Melbourne to win, plus picked the 1-12 margin. He also had ‘Melbourne to win either half’ in the multi, along with a long list of try scorers – Suliasi Vunivalu, Cameron Smith, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Brian To’o, Josh Mansour and Nathan Cleary.

A number of Penrith officials as well as wives and girlfriends of the players had to undergo a COVID-19 test last Friday to ensure they could be a little closer than normal to the players after the game.

Two Penrith centres must surely have a cloud over them in terms of their futures at the club. Dean Whare was once one of the best defensive centres in the game but it seems he’s unlikely to find his way back into Ivan Cleary’s top 17 next year unless there’s a long injury list. Meantime Brent Naden must surely be wondering what being dropped to the bench for the two biggest games of the year means for his 2021 prospects. An off-season of speculation looms.

Former Panthers, Jets and Raiders winger Ray Blacklock has passed away after a long illness.

That’s it from me in 2020. Thanks for reading throughout the year – hopefully I’ve given you some insight into what’s happening behind the scenes at the Panthers, and delivered a few scoops too!

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