The cat is out of the bag as far as secret plans to build the new Penrith Stadium on the site of the Penrith Paceway are concerned.
Your writer has been aware of this prospect for some time but was unable to reveal details due to commercial sensitivities surrounding the move.
As much as it’s a solid idea and would allow the Panthers to stay at BlueBet Stadium during the construction period, there’s still plenty of boxes to tick before it even gets close to happening.
Topping the to-do list is official consultation with the Paceway about selling the land and how they’d be relocated both permanently and temporarily during construction.
The State Government, particularly Penrith MP Stuart Ayres, is very aware of what a win it would be to keep the Panthers in Penrith in 2023 and 2024 – but there’s a lot of work to do before anything can be locked in.
The NRL says it’s investigating an incident involving a Parramatta Eels trainer last Friday night, in which he ran across the front of the posts while Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary was attempting a sideline conversion. The Eels are expected to be fined.
Freddy in town
The NRL media cycle was in overdrive when Blues coach Brad Fittler rocked up at Panthers training on Tuesday.
But while Freddy did catch up with some of his Origin prospects and even helped Nathan Cleary out with some field goal practice, he was mainly there to film a piece for Channel Nine.
We did note Stephen Crichton produced his best training session in history after spotting Fittler.
If you squint closely, you’ll see Blues coach Freddy Fittler out at Panthers training this afternoon. Even though he was filming a piece for Nine, I’m told certain players were keen to ‘show off’ in front of the league legend (cough Critta cough) #PantherPride pic.twitter.com/IopL6wkz1c
— Nathan Taylor (@NateTaylor87) May 10, 2022
Game day drama
There’s no doubt Penrith’s preparation for last Friday’s game against Parramatta could be best described as chaotic.
The team was already dealing with several ill players (including Scott Sorensen who had to pull out of the game) when Assistant Coach Cameron Ciraldo went down with COVID.
Then head coach Ivan Cleary ended up in hospital due to his troublesome knee – which he’s been dealing with for some time. It left Andrew Webster in charge of the side on Friday.
Nobody is saying the result would have been any different under better circumstances but it certainly wasn’t an ideal lead-up to a big game. Cleary will be back in the box at Suncorp Stadium for this Saturday night’s clash against Melbourne.
Jenko heads north
Lower grade winger Robert Jennings is leaving Penrith at the end of the season to hook up with the Dolphins, where’s he’s a chance of playing regular first grade. It’s a three-year deal for 26-year-old Jennings, who won the NYC Under 20’s Grand Final with Penrith in 2015 before playing NRL with the Panthers, Tigers and Rabbitohs.
Taylan May and Stephen Crichton checking out the watches on offer at Dallin and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak’s new shop at Westfield Penrith.
Garner a Panther
Penrith still haven’t formally announced Luke Garner’s signing for next season but rest assured it’s a done deal.
The 26-year-old had a phone conversation with Ivan Cleary (who ironically handed him his debut at the Tigers four years ago) to seal the deal. It was a quick process. Garner jumped at the chance to join the Premiers.
Cleary backs May – again
Nathan Cleary backing Tyrone May’s possible return to the foot of the Mountains is nothing new. The Penrith co-captain has never shied away from his mateship with troublemaker May, who was dumped by the club after last year’s Grand Final.
As influential as the Clearys are at Penrith, they’d still face a tough task in convincing the Board and management that May should return to the club. The appetite just isn’t there from the key figures.
Big cash for Big Walk
An incredible $300,000 was raised for Royce Simmons’ Alzheimer’s fundraising drive via a major harbour cruise last Saturday night. The event attracted some of rugby league’s biggest names including Greg Alexander, Brad Fittler, Craig Gower, Ray Hadley and Mark Carroll. Simmons is hopeful he’ll raise $500,000 by the time his walk concludes at BlueBet Stadium on May 27.
This Eels fan attending his last ever Battle of the West.