Door open for Barrett
The departure of assistant coach Andrew Webster at the end of the season opens the obvious possibility of Trent Barrett returning for a third stint at the Panthers next season.
Barrett’s days as a head coach are most likely over and a return to Penrith would certainly come with his tail between his legs. There are some at the club who believe Barrett’s papers are marked and he shouldn’t be welcomed back, but others – including head coach Ivan Cleary – are understood to be open to at least considering it.
At the moment the focus is on the run to the Finals and Webster is certainly intent on leaving Penrith with another Premiership.
Talking of Webster, his appointment at the Warriors may have seemed from left field but there’s no doubt he’s been on the radar of several clubs looking for head coaches in recent times.
Webster even got his hands dirty by taking the reigns of the Panthers for their clash with Parramatta earlier this season, when Ivan Cleary and Cameron Ciraldo were both out.
“Although we’re saddened to see Andrew depart the club at season’s end, it’s rewarding to see a valued member of the club progress to the next stage of their career,” Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said.
“Working alongside NRL head coach Ivan Cleary and the entire football staff, Andrew has been influential in providing an environment for players to flourish, and played a key role in leading the Panthers to premiership success.”
Awkward race night
Imagine the irony. The Panthers are sponsoring a major race night at the Penrith Paceway next Thursday night, with previous Penrith players, Directors and coaching staff in attendance.
It’s an annual event, but a little more awkward this year given the news that the new Penrith Stadium – which will become home of the Panthers – is set to be built on the site of the Paceway in the coming years.
There’s not necessarily bad blood between Panthers and the Paceway but we’re sure there’ll be a few awkward moments on the night.
No love lost
All the talk leading up to Origin on Wednesday night was around former Panther Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s snub from the Blues team from Game III, and the possible Penrith link to the decision.
It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between RCG and some of his former team mates at the foot of the Mountains. Whether that had an impact on the decision not to select the now Eels forward for Wednesday night’s decider is another thing altogether.
One thing is certain – the clash between Parramatta and Penrith at the end of the month now has an extra storyline attached to it.
Stadium to go eventually
Plenty of people have asked what will happen to the existing Panthers Stadium once the new venue is complete across the road in 2025.
The bottom line is that the existing stadium will be demolished eventually, though there’s every chance it may remain abandoned for a period until plans can be finalised for the site’s future.
The State Government wants the site to become a true Penrith Park – with plenty of green space for all. Rumours about potential housing developments or the land being sold off are way off the mark.
Coach turns author
Former Penrith coach Matt Elliott has turned his hand to writing. He recently released a self-help book titled The Change Room. It’s available now from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Royce Simmons Cup
Sunday’s match between the Panthers and Tigers will have some added spice after being named the Royce Simmons Cup in honour of Royce Simmons, who is of course a Penrith legend but also served as an assistant coach at the Tigers. Funds will be raised at the game, directed to the Royce’s Big Walk initiative.
Panthers enforcer Liam Martin impressing team mate Jarome Luai in the gym at Blues training this week.
Spill the tea
Have you heard some Panthers gossip? Spotted a player out and about? I don’t keep secrets but I do protect sources. Email me at [email protected].