Masked Panther: Family hill to survive

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Family hill likely to survive

News of a new stadium being built in Penrith has certainly split the Panthers’ fan base, but I do have some good news for the traditionalists – the family hill is likely to survive.

Even if the State Government wanted to build an all-seat venue, it’s unlikely a grandstand could work at the northern end of the ground due to how close Ransley Street is to the boundary.

That’ll almost certainly result in the hill at that end surviving and the finished product looking more like the new stadium in Townsville than CommBank in Parramatta.

The family hill. Photo: NRL Images.

Taking home a slice of history

Talking of the stadium, the Panthers are well aware that many long-time fans want to keep a slice of the old venue when it’s decommissioned at the end of next season.

On top of the list is the seats – plenty of supporters want to take their seat home as a memory of the many great years at the venue. The club is open to this, but still hasn’t quite worked out the logistics of how it’d work.

Farragher runs for Board spot

It would be very unlikely that a sitting Board would be disrupted after a Premiership-winning season and after managing the club through the pandemic, but we are indeed heading for an election early next year.

All five sitting Directors are up for re-election, while former player and Penrith icon John Farragher has also put a nomination forward.

Farragher, a familiar face that welcomed visitors to the leagues club for many years, recently retired.

“He will ensure that decisions are made in the Members’ best interests, that we have a strong football side and that the club is financially sound for generations to come,” Farragher’s nomination profile says.

Voting will take place in February next year.

John Farragher.

Cleary still supports May

It’s safe to say that Penrith coach Ivan Cleary disagreed with the Board’s decision to sack wayward utility Tyrone May. Cleary was happy enough to respect the Board’s call but remains a strong supporter of May, who is heading to France next year.

Talking of May, we had to shake our heads when he rocked up at Panthers on the night of the Premier’s Parade last month. May has every right to catch up with his mates but somebody should have realised it was a terrible look, even if the official formalities were long finished.

No offer for Kikau

In the end, Penrith didn’t even put an offer on the table for Viliame Kikau, who has since confirmed he’s off to the Bulldogs from 2023.

Rather than getting into a bidding war, the Panthers allowed Kikau to test the market and were somewhat blown away by the money being offered for his services.

Penrith were no chance of matching the offers from other clubs, particularly the Bulldogs, so opted to show Kikau respect and not put an offer forward.

Viliame Kikau. Photo: NRL Photos.

Putting trophy drama to bed

Everyone will move on from the trophy drama that erupted in the wake of the Grand Final, but rest assured it’s an uncomfortable issue between the Panthers and the NRL.

The club is obviously being careful not to ruffle too many feathers, but it certainly believes head office over-reacted – particularly when it lodged a laughable concern about the trophy coming into contact with alcohol.

The NRL has itself broken the trophy in the past. It’s not a terribly uncommon issue, and was blown way out of proportion.

Medal finally returned to Cleary

After stuffing up the engraving on the Clive Churchill Medal, the NRL eventually fixed the medal for Nathan Cleary – but somebody forgot to get it back to him.

In fact it took the Panthers leaking the story about the ‘missing’ medal to the media for the NRL to finally locate it in somebody’s drawer. Cleary was finally given the medal about a month after the Grand Final.

Darren Micallef.

Panthers become secret keepers

Panthers marketing whiz Darren Micallef was a deserving winner of the Clubman of the Year at this year’s Merv Cartwright Medal, but a secret operation had to take place to ensure he didn’t find out about it.

Micallef is usually completely across the award winners, so fellow staff concocted a plan that had Isaah Yeo winning the gong. Fake meetings were even held so as not to spoil the surprise. Not much gets past Micallef, but he was completely surprised by the honour.


Mexican fiesta: Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards enjoying his off-season break with a meal at Checho’s in Penrith.

Festive time of year: Panthers 2003 premiership winning halfback Craig Gower at Willy’s Christmas Tree Farm in Vineyard, picking out a tree for the festive season.

Koroisau good yet move on

There’s some talk around that the Panthers haven’t completely dismissed the idea of Api Koroisau heading to the Wests Tigers earlier than 2023.

It’d help avoid the drama surrounding his vaccination status, which is likely to see the hooker miss road games during the 2022 season.

However, there is some talk Koroisau is willing to take the Novavax vaccine, which is likely to be available from January.

Brandy could get new TV gig

Will Panthers legend Greg Alexander be in the ‘NRL 360’ hosting chair next year? That’s certainly the rumour doing the rounds, with the show looking for a replacement for Yvonne Sampson, who will be on maternity leave in the early part of the season.

Fox producers apparently love the banter between Alexander and Paul Kent, which has turned explosive a couple of times in recent years.

See you in March

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Masked Panther followers – I’ll see you again in March when Extra Time returns.

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