They’re a long way from home but that hasn’t stopped the Panthers feeling the love on the Sunshine Coast.
The team held an open training session at Sunshine Coast Stadium yesterday afternoon.
Plenty of young fans turned out to see their favourite players like Nathan Cleary, Viliame Kikau and Brian To’o be put through their paces by coach Ivan Cleary.
The fans also got to meet the players, take photos and a few lucky supporters also scored some training gear from the players.
The Panthers have been based on the Sunshine Coast since the NRL was relocated to Queensland mid-season, but ironically never played at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
After two seasons of ‘bubble life’ and keeping their distance from fans, the players lapped up the opportunity to engage with supporters.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have also been receiving plenty of support from home in Penrith.
Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said the community was right behind the NRL team ahead of Sunday’s clash with Souths.
“The last three games have had us all on the edge of seats as we’ve cheered them on all the way and even though South Sydney got the better of us in week one of the Finals, I’m feeling confident knowing we’ve got quite a good record against South Sydney,” Ms McKeown said.
“There are many similarities to the famed ’91 Grand Final victory with that team being denied the year prior, much like last year, before securing the title the next year.
“It would be a fairytale for the ages if the team can go one better this year. And what a way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Panthers first grand final victory!”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.