Masked Panther: Cleary targets four week return

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Cleary back in a month

Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary could be back as soon as Round 20 for the club’s blockbuster clash against Melbourne at AAMI Park.

The playmaker consulted a surgeon on Wednesday after suffering a shoulder injury in Origin II. It was agreed that Cleary would rehab the injury and try to get through until the end of the season, with post-season surgery to follow.

While the experts have told Cleary to expect a stint on the sidelines of up to six weeks, the tough as nails halfback wants to be back on the field within four.

Nathan Cleary. Photo: NRL Photos.

Club counts the cost of lockdown

The Panthers are counting the cost of the NSW lockdown with a huge revenue hit surrounding what is usually one of the most lucrative games of the year for the club.

Officials estimate they’ll miss out on around $500,000 worth of revenue once gate takings, corporate ticketing and flow-on crowds over at the Leagues Club are taken into account.

While everyone understands that health comes first, there’s no doubt the timing couldn’t have been worse for the club. Perhaps fate will deliver a Panthers v Eels home final come September?

Players to follow strict rules

Bubble life has returned for NRL players. Lockdowns in NSW and across the country have the NRL exceptionally concerned about the continuity of the competition, prompting the return of Level 4 Biosecurity Protocols.

Under Level 4 protocols players must remain at home unless training, playing or completing an essential household task. Visitors are not permitted into the homes of players or officials.

Level 4 protocols are the same restrictions imposed on players and officials when the competition first resumed from the COVID-19 enforced suspension on May 28 last year.


Panthers and NSW winger Brian To’o chilling out with some tunes on the Suncorp Stadium surface before Origin II kicked off last Sunday night.

Photo: NRL Photos.

Capewell set to head north

While Kurt Capewell has rushed to quash rumours that he’s signed with Brisbane for next season, there’s no doubt that the Broncos are now the clear favourite for his signature.

The club believes they’ve got their man, even if no deal has been officially signed. The 27-year-old had indicated his desire to return to Queensland at the end of his Penrith contract, but rumours in recent months suggested he may be convinced to stay in Sydney and sign a one-year extension with the Panthers.

If it comes down to money, the Panthers won’t be the biggest offer.

Kurt Capewell. Photo: Megan Dunn.

Cleary favoured for Australian jumper

Has the time come for Nathan Cleary to replace Daly Cherry-Evans as the Australian halfback?

That’s certainly the push ahead of the World Cup, scheduled to be held later this year. Former Panthers star Jamie Soward pushed Cleary’s case this week too in a column for NRL.COM.

“Cherry-Evans is not on the level of Cleary, who is the best player – let alone halfback – in the world,” Soward declared.

Stadium upgrade still on track

So, what’s going on with the Panthers Stadium upgrade? While nothing was confirmed in last Tuesday’s State Budget, I’m told it’s still all systems go for the project.

There’s certainly some nervous people in the State Government who believe an expensive knockdown and re-build won’t necessarily play well with the public, but Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is all but certain to push ahead.

He’s waiting on final reports that will give the Penrith project the official green light, then you can expect a funding announcement.

Stadium history

Talking of Panthers Stadium, make sure check out a Special Report compiled by Troy Dodds, whose written a terrific piece on the history of the stadium and shares some wonderful memories.

Read it here.

Heard a rumour?

I don’t keep secrets, but I do protect my sources. You can email me direct at [email protected]. You can also drop your rumours to the inbox on the Western Weekender Facebook page.

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