Penrith Panthers veteran Josh Mansour has been released from the final year of his contract to join NRL rivals South Sydney.
Mansour’s likely departure had been rumoured for months with this year’s Grand Final turning out to be his last game for Penrith.
The 30-year-old winger made his NRL debut for Panthers in 2012 and played 158 games for the club.
“On and off the field, Josh has given great service to our club over a long period of time,” Panthers General Manager Rugby League Matt Cameron said.
“He’s been an ever-popular member of our squad, a favourite with the fans and has proven the strength of his character in overcoming several serious injuries.
“As difficult as this parting of ways may be, it’s out of respect for Josh that we felt so strongly about giving him the opportunity to seek a starting NRL spot at another club in 2021.
“We thank Josh for his service to Panthers and wish him, his wife Daniella and their young family all the very best for the future.”
During his time at Panthers, Mansour played seven games for Australia and made three Origin appearances for NSW.
“While this isn’t an ending I ever envisaged, I’ve made peace with the decision and I’m ready to move forward with a new challenge,” Mansour said.
“I want to thank the club and the fans for their incredible support through the ups and downs of the last nine years.
“I’m so grateful for every moment and everything Panthers has given me and my family.
“Whatever the future holds, I’ll always consider myself a Panther and be proud of what I achieved at the club.”
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary also paid tribute to the immense contribution of Mansour during his time at Panthers.
“I have fond memories of giving Josh his NRL debut back in 2012,” Cleary said.
“The fact that 80 players have made their first grade debuts for Penrith since that day is testament to just how significant Josh’s service to our club has been.
“He’s held in high regard by everyone at Panthers and we wish him and his family the best of luck moving forward.”
Souths confirmed that Mansour had signed a two-year deal with the club.
Rabbitohs Head of Football Mark Ellison said Mansour will bring more than just his football ability when he returns to the Rabbitohs.
“Josh is a highly experienced NRL and representative player that will bring many attributes to our team, the Club and our community,” he said.
“He is a high work rate winger who is one of the competition’s leading players in terms of kick return metres, as well as a renowned finisher.
“More importantly he is a quality team and club man that inspires his team mates and brings energy to any team of which he is a part.
“He knows what our Club is about and respects the tradition and history of South Sydney, as well as the community that the Club represents.
“We reluctantly let Josh go in 2012 after playing a key role in our 2010 NYC Grand Final team and it is fantastic to have this opportunity to bring him back to South Sydney for 2021.
“That opportunity to bring him back would not be there if it wasn’t for Corey Allan moving on, another player who, like Josh in 2012, is moving on for opportunities elsewhere.
“We’re really excited to bringing a player of Josh’s ability and character back to our Club and we can’t wait to see him earn the right to pull on the Rabbitohs first grade jersey that eluded him a decade ago.”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.