Thank you, Paul Kent.
Thank you, NRL 360.
And most of all, thank you NRL Twitter.
If there was any doubt that the Penrith Panthers would still have the fire in the belly to push for a third Premiership next year, it has been extinguished in the last few days.
The way Penrith’s Grand Final celebrations have been covered by some sections of the media, and the subsequent pile-on, has been one of rugby league’s biggest ever over-reactions. And boy, there’s been a few of those over the last 113-odd years.
I can’t imagine what these people would possibly think if they followed the NFL and NBA and watched the ‘big show’ celebrations, or the trash talk, that happens in those American sports.
This Penrith team will likely respond like they have so often in the last few years: by winning.
I’ve never been more sure of how hungry Penrith will be next season to make it a threepeat.
But let’s just unpack the last few days for a moment.
Like all teams, Penrith undertook post-match celebrations in the dressing room after their thrashing of Parramatta.
The photos and footage showed a wonderful celebration – some players honouring their heritage, others playing up to the ‘Top Gun’ theme we’ve now heard all about in the wash-up to the game. There was plenty of champagne being sprayed, a common sight in winning dressing rooms, and songs being sung (including ‘Sweet Caroline’ – and no, it wasn’t a reference to Mitch Moses. Imagine actually thinking that!).
The team then headed back to Panthers. There was no crowd surfing, no wild party. Instead, the team bus took a back entrance into the club and the players joined a private party at the EVAN Theatre with family, friends, staff and a few hangers-on. They took photos with said hangers-on, shared a few drinks and in some cases, danced the night away.
They then turned up to a fan day at 9.30am the next morning, sunglasses in tow – again, a common accessory for Premiership-winning teams of any sport around the world on ‘the morning after’.
James Fisher-Harris says what he says. (In the subsequent days, we discover nobody at Parramatta is all that concerned. Nor is anyone from any previous Penrith team, from what we can tell).
Api Koroisau says what he says. (I mean, he said what we’re all thinking, but sure, he’d probably like it back).
The fan day ends, and the players continue their celebrations at different pubs around Penrith – in private, with little fanfare apart from the odd fan asking for a photo.
And so ends the apparently over-the-top, offensive celebrations.
Extraordinary really, when you consider all this offence apparently happened in a 12-hour period.
Seriously, it’s actually one of the most subdued Premiership celebrations of all-time. Just ask the 2003 team about “hijacking” a bus to get to the fan day or the 1991 side about how long the party lasted.
If you legitimately think Penrith went over the top this week, you need your head read. Maybe following professional sport isn’t for you.
Tell me, honestly, what have Penrith done wrong?
Sure, you can cringe at a thing or two if it’s not your go. If you don’t understand bigging up sporting rivalries, all good. Maybe the background or the area some of these guys come from is not something you grasp.
But who have they hurt?
Truth is much of this comes from one organisation, and particularly one TV show.
The same TV show that backed 55-year-old Ricky Stuart when he called 23-year-old Jaeman Salmon a “weak gutted dog” in a press conference, over an incident that happened when the latter was a child.
The same TV show that hammered Penrith trainer Pete Green in the lead-up to the Grand Final, despite mounting evidence there was no issue out of the Preliminary Final – including from the player impacted himself, Jed Cartwright.
The same TV show that pushed the ‘arrogant’ line because Penrith dares to celebrate tries in lavish style.
The same TV show that acted like a scuffle in a Panthers v Raiders match at the start of last season was akin to the 1992 LA riots.
I think we can see where the problem lies here, and it’s not with the Panthers.
I guess it’s all about ratings and clicks. Sad, really.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.