Masked Panther: All sweet between Freddy and Api

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Blues now happy with Api

Just a year ago Api Koroisau was on the nose with NSW Origin management after sneaking a woman into the Blues camp; a situation made worse by COVID restrictions at the time.

Now he’s the starting hooker for the do-or-die clash with Queensland on Sunday night.

The trust between Koroisau and Blues coach Fittler had to be rebuilt was certainly back in place before this year’s series. Koroisau even sat alongside Fittler in the coach’s box in Origin I.

Fittler has opted to back the playmaking Penrith trio of Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary and Koroisau to get the job done, with a total of seven Penrith players now in the starting side for the clash in Perth.

Api Koroisau at NSW Blues training this week. Photo: NRL Images.

Cleary to bounce back

The bookies are confident that Nathan Cleary will brush aside his poor performance in the opening Origin game to produce a standout effort in Perth on Sunday.

He’s currently the $5.50 favourite with the TAB to take out Player of the Match honours, ahead of Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and James Tedesco.

Nathan Cleary at Blues training this week. Photo: NRL Images.

May’s day in court

Try-scoring sensation Taylan May will front court in Queensland again on October 19 where he’ll defend assault charges levelled against him last year.

The NRL Integrity Unit and Panthers appear to be backing May after viewing CCTV footage of the incident at a Maroochydore pub, and May has not been subjected to any stand-down or suspension.

While the October court date means the case won’t further disrupt Penrith’s Premiership push, it could cause havoc for the World Cup. May, and several witnesses, are likely to be in England on October 19 – and will have to seek leave to appear via video link.


Panthers and Blues hooker Api Koroisau loading up on some sushi at Sapporo in Penrith last week.

Truth in advertising

You’ve got to laugh at the Sportsbet ad that runs constantly on Fox League where a group of mates ask an expert fisherman his thoughts on Penrith winning 13+. “Probably not,” he declares. “There’s a few injuries this week.” The bloke should stick to fishing. Penrith have won 12 of their 15 matches by 13+ this season and have had the lowest injury toll of any NRL club. Awkward.

Coach on deck

Ivan Cleary is hopeful of not missing any further games due to his ongoing knee complaint. He couldn’t travel to Redcliffe last week after blood clots moved to his lungs, with his doctors putting a red pen through all of Cleary’s travel suggestions.

Penrith don’t jump on a plane again until September, so Cleary is likely to be back in the coach’s box for the run to the Finals.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary. Photo: NRL Photos.


Champion Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary and Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson deep in conversation after full-time of last week’s clash in Redcliffe.

Money matters

The Panthers are doing their best to ensure the players handle their money wisely. They’ve had financial experts in to speak with the NRL squad about budgets and investments. In addition, a number of younger players are given one-on-one financial advice as they navigate the reality of their first contracts.


The Fiji team training at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Tuesday ahead of their clash with Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

No deadline on Ciraldo

Reports that the Wests Tigers have placed a deadline on Cameron Ciraldo to make a decision about coaching the club next season are off the mark. The Tigers are in no position to make such a demand, particularly given Ciraldo has had plenty on his plate with Ivan Cleary in and out of work due to his health concerns.

The Tigers need an answer soon but they’re certainly not going to pressure Ciraldo. As much as he’s leaning towards making the switch to Concord, Penrith remain somewhat confident he may just stay at the foot of the Mountains.

Penrith Assistant Coach Cameron Ciraldo. Photo: NRL Images.

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