Masked Panther: Home sweet home for Brian To’o

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Dream comes true for Brian

Brian To’o had two financial goals when it was clear this whole rugby league caper was going to work out for him – buy a headstone for his late sister, and purchase his family a home.

He managed to get the headstone for Danielle back when he signed his first major contract with Penrith a few years back. This week, he proudly revealed the second goal had been ticked off – he has bought his loving parents a property of their own.

“Work hard, stay humble and put your heart into it and you can accomplish anything,” To’o said on Instagram, alongside a very happy family photo.

Brian To’o with his family. Photo: Instagram.

Cleary’s Bali break

Panthers and Blues halfback Nathan Cleary was always planning to jet off to Bali for a few days regardless of the result of last Wednesday night’s Origin decider.

The mid-season freshen up was planned as part of Ivan Cleary’s representative mud map, designed to get Penrith through the difficult period and prepare the side for the run to the Finals. The coach was adamant he didn’t want the Origin players at Panthers HQ or at last Sunday’s game against the Tigers. He wanted them to have a complete break from footy.

CCT live in Penrith

The top-rating 2GB Continuous Call Team will be broadcasting live from Panthers Leagues Club this Saturday afternoon. Mark Levy, Darryl Brohman, Paul Gallen and Boyd Cordner will be on deck from 1pm, before heading across the road to broadcast the Panthers v Sharks match from BlueBet Stadium.

The Continuous Call Team.

Shield presentation

The NRL is yet to open discussions with Penrith about the presentation of the J.J Giltinan Shield should they win the Minor Premiership, which now seems a given.

However, I can confirm it is the club’s preference to have the Shield presented in front of their home fans in Round 24, ahead of the game against the Warriors.

Armchair critics get it wrong

Criticism of Nathan Cleary has followed him pretty much from day one, and only intensifies when a big game like Origin III doesn’t go his side’s way. But the critics fail to acknowledge that he’s still only 24-years-old, thrown into Penrith’s first grade team and into the Blues side during desperate times, likely ahead of schedule.

Comparisons to the likes of Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Johns are utterly ridiculous given the benefit of 10 extra years of footy sits with players like that. Recency bias ensures critics remember Cronk, Thurston and Johns at their best – not when they were still crafting their game.

Cleary may well go down as one of the greats, especially given his best footy is clearly in front of him.

Nathan Cleary in action. Photo: NRL Images.

Heritage matters

Those taking shots at the likes of Jarome Luai and Brian To’o for wanting to represent Samoa at the World Cup need to adjust their old-fashioned thinking. The game is changing. We should be embracing those who play with such extraordinary passion for the heritage and cultures that mean so much to them. And yes, that can mean playing with just as much passion in a New South Wales jersey as a Samoan one.

Leniu on the outer?

Just what’s going on with Spencer Leniu? He was left out of the side to play the Tigers last weekend despite the lack of first grade experience in the team. Against the Roosters he played just nine minutes off the bench, down from 23 minutes he got in against the Warriors. And he’s not been named in the 17 for this Saturday’s clash with the Sharks at BlueBet Stadium either.

While the Panthers are planning for Leniu to be at the club next season, there’s no doubt questions are being raised about his future at the foot of the Mountains. He’s shown plenty of potential over the years, but something is clearly hindering his progress.

Spencer Leniu. Photo: NRL Images.

Grant sells

Former Panthers forward Tim Grant wisely invested in property during his time in the NRL, which is now starting to bear fruit. Last weekend he finalised the sale of a four bedroom, two bathroom property he owned at Leppington.

Ciraldo ponders future

The Panthers are still confident Cameron Ciraldo will remain at the club next season but they can’t escape the ongoing speculation about his future. The Bulldogs rumour simply won’t go away despite the red flags that surround the deal.

This week, he was suddenly talked about in the same breath as the Dragons, who appear to be going cold on Anthony Griffin. But as I reported a few weeks back, the Eels remain a huge possibility – Brad Arthur needs to produce a stellar finish to the season and likely a Grand Final appearance to convince the powers that be that he remains the long-term solution.

At this stage, Penrith are comfortable that Ciraldo isn’t being distracted by what’s going on behind the scenes. They’re also confident Andrew Webster is focused on the job at hand and not preparing for his switch to the Warriors. But if the Panthers drop a few games, rest assured the club will likely ensure the coaching train is very much focused and on track.

Silverware secured

The Panthers took home the first ever Royce Simmons Cup when they toppled the Tigers 18-16 at CommBank Stadium last Saturday. Stand-in skipper Dylan Edwards was handed the honour of hoisting the NRL team’s first piece of silverware for the year.

Royce Simmons with Dylan Edwards. Photo: NRL Images.

Bookies back Panthers

Penrith are now at almost unbackable odds of $2.00 to win the Premiership with the TAB, making them one of the shortest priced Premiership favourites in history, especially at this stage of the season. To put things into context, Melbourne sits on the second line of betting at $7.00.

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