Masked Panther: Ciraldo linked with surprise Eels move

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Photo for the ages

Right now it’s just a bloody great photo, but in years to come it’ll be a symbol of one of the great times in Penrith rugby league history.

The fact the Panthers had seven players run out for New South Wales against Queensland on Sunday night was absolutely wild, and it’s recognition of just how dominant this current Penrith team is.

If the Blues get the win in the decider in Brisbane on July 13, the 2022 series will be remembered as the year the Panthers stepped up and got the job done for their State. It’s stuff of rugby league legend.

Penrith’s Blues representatives. Photo: NRL Images.

Ciraldo linked to Eels

It sounds like a wild rumour that couldn’t possibly have substance, but I’ve now been told by multiple people ‘in the know’ that Penrith assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo (pictured below) ending up at Parramatta is not out of the realms of possibility.

Ciraldo has declined a massive offer to join the Tigers and won’t be heading to the Bulldogs either. He’s likely to sign an extension with Penrith, which will have a clause that he can leave should he wish to take up a head coach opportunity.

The Eels are suddenly looming as a possible destination in 2023 or 2024. There’s a theory that the Eels’ Premiership window will be well and truly closed if they don’t get the job done this year, and Brad Arthur’s head could be on the chopping block if they don’t at least make a Prelim. Some have even suggested Arthur needs to make a Grand Final to keep his job.

Watch this space, I have a feeling there’s plenty still to play out here.

Cameron Ciraldo. Photo: NRL Images.

Stadium latest

Expect some major developments around the future of BlueBet Stadium in the next couple of weeks. As the NRL starts to prepare next season’s draw, it’s now adding to the pressure of a decision on exactly where Penrith will be playing.

The State Government’s discussions with the Penrith Paceway continue about the new stadium being built on that site, allowing Penrith to stay at the existing stadium for another two years. Expect big decisions and announcements very soon.

Nine’s commentary conundrum

He’s been thrust into the spotlight following Ray Warren’s departure but the truth is Penrith boy Mat Thompson has been carrying Channel Nine’s rugby league coverage for some time, with Warren making only rare appearances in the commentary box in recent years.

Now Thompson is off-contract, and has a management agency negotiating his new deal with Nine. Thompson is in the box seat, you would have to think.

With the likes of Warren Smith, Andrew Voss and Dan Ginnane seemingly glued to Fox Sports, Nine needs Thompson to stay on beyond the end of the season or it could find itself without a respected and experienced lead caller.

Garner locked in

The Panthers finally confirmed the signing of Wests Tigers forward Luke Garner last week, announcing he’s inked a two-year deal for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

“I have a great relationship with him from the past and I think he is the kind of guy who can flourish in our environment,” said Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.


Former Panthers Chairman Dave O’Neill celebrating the birthday of BOQ Penrith owner Anthony Walker at The Log Cabin in Penrith last Saturday night.


Former Panthers Sam McKendry and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak doing their best to go viral on TikTok with some impressive dancing.

Boosting the pack

Chris Smith and Eddie Blacker have signed contract extensions with Penrith that will keep them at the club for the 2023 season.

“As a player who developed through our system and returned to Panthers later in his career, it’s great to have Chris remain at the club for a further season,” said Panthers CEO Matt Cameron.

“Eddie has been a great contributor to Panthers since joining the club last season, and his re-signing adds to the depth of our front row stocks.”

Chris Smith. Photo: Penrith Panthers.

First past the post

The Minor Premiership race is all over if you believe the bookies. The TAB has Penrith at $1.03 to finish the regular season on top.

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