Masked Panther: Critter set for Blues debut

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Feeling the Blues

Stephen Crichton will make his State of Origin debut for New South Wales next month at Accor Stadium.

The season-ending shoulder injury to Tom Trbojevic has opened the door for the 21-year-old, who will be named in Brad Fittler’s team when it’s revealed this weekend.

‘Critter’ was already a chance of being selected given the injury to Latrell Mitchell, but it’s a gold-plated guarantee he’ll be there now.

Stephen Crichton runs away to score in last year’s Grand Final. Photo: NRL Photos.


Three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley supporting Royce Simmons on Royce’s Big Walk last week.

Miles joins Big Walk

Gene Miles, who developed a strong bond with Royce Simmons when they were Australian teammates in 1986, has a two-sided affinity with Royce’s dementia diagnosis and fundraising campaign.

Big ‘Geno’ was scheduled to complete day 10 on the road with his mate ‘Simmo’ on Thursday – with fellow border hoppers Wally Lewis and Trevor Gillmeister – after appearing as a guest speaker at Katoomba RSL on Wednesday night.

He watched Alzheimer’s disease slowly grind his father Tom from a strong, independent man to his death in July last year, so Royce’s Big Walk is personal for him.

“It is a terrible thing. And dementia doesn’t get enough publicity. When you’re personally affected by it, you get to understand what a terrible disease it is,” Miles said.

Simmons will finish Royce’s Big Walk at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

Showground bites back

“We’ll go when we’re ready” was the brash messaging from the Penrith District AH&I Society last week as speculation continues to mount over the future site of a new Penrith Stadium.

“It is no secret we have been contemplating our future for the past four years. But we are not in a hurry,” a letter to the community and Showground supporters said in response to speculation the Penrith Paceway site could house the new stadium, allowing the Panthers to continue to play out of BlueBet Stadium while it is constructed.

“Like many clubs and community-based organisations, we are assessing our future needs, and our landholding is the long-held asset that will help take us into the future.”

The Society made the point that it is not against the idea, but it would have to be “the right deal”. This is all very much a matter of timing. If the State Government wants to push on with a timeline to build the new stadium from later this year, the Paceway may not be the option it had initially hoped.

There’s plenty to play out behind the scenes here, so stand by!

Penrith Paceway’s future is uncertain. Photo: Melinda Jane


A number of Penrith Directors and officials have been struck down with COVID this month. Thankfully it hasn’t impacted the playing group. There’s a suspicion Magic Round was the culprit for the mini-outbreak.

Commentator calls Penrith title

Fox League commentator Andrew Voss has seen plenty of footy over the years, and he’s confident that the Panthers can go back-to-back in 2022.

“Penrith just have more gears than any other side,” Voss declared on his SEN Radio breakfast show this week.

“I will not be tipping against Penrith again this season.”

He had some lofty support too, with former Australian captain Cameron Smith (who played his final NRL game against Penrith in the 2020 Grand Final), accepting the Panthers are the team to beat.

“I’ve seen Penrith half a dozen times live this year and they are super impressive,” Smith said.

“The game against Melbourne in particular, I don’t think I’ve seen such a dominant performance all year from any side.”

Double act

Talking of Voss, he produced a rare NRL double act last Saturday – calling the Dragons v Warriors clash in the afternoon before racing across town to call Penrith’s win over the Roosters at the SCG.

Footy tops politics

Saturday’s three NRL games all finished on top of the ratings against Sky News’ election coverage last Saturday night. The Cowboys v Storm clash topped the night, while the Panthers’ win over the Roosters attracted an average audience of 204,000.

Falls to debut

Kurt Falls is set to make his long-awaited NRL debut when he plays for Penrith against the Bulldogs next weekend.

Spill the tea

Have you heard a rumour that I should look into? Spotted a Panther out and about? I don’t keep secrets but I do protect my sources. Email me at [email protected].

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