Masked Panther: Fletcher’s push set to get results

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Fletch ruffles feathers

Panthers Group CEO Brian Fletcher has had a long-standing relationship with ARLC Chairman, Peter V’landys, hence he doesn’t mind throwing the odd jab at head office, knowing he has a bit of leeway. Case in point, his current campaign to increase the prize money on offer to the club that wins the NRL Premiership.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo took exception to some of Fletcher’s comments this week. He has a good relationship with Fletcher but doesn’t have the history he and V’landys do.

Regardless, they say the squeaky wheel gets the oil – and Fletcher’s push is set to garner results, with the Commission on the verge of increasing prize money from next season.

Brian Fletcher. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Saints coming to Penrith

UK Super League champions St Helens look certain to visit Penrith in February to play the Panthers in the World Club Challenge.

The concept hasn’t been played since 2019, due to complications surrounding the pandemic. But the NRL is keen to make it happen in 2023 especially with the added scheduling complication of a 17th team, the Dolphins, and how all clubs can play two trial matches.

Playing the World Club Challenge in February would allow the Panthers to only play one trial against an NRL club then their main pre-season game against the Saints.

Where that leaves the traditional Battle of the West trial is anyone’s guess – it could revert to being the first trial for both clubs, minus many first grade stars, or be put on ice for a season.

Scoop confirmed

I told you last week that Jack Cogger was in Penrith’s sights as a possible replacement for Sean O’Sullivan. On Monday, Panthers confirmed Cogger is indeed returning from the UK and will link up with the Panthers for 2023.

Cogger joins the Panthers on a one-year deal following two seasons at the Huddersfield Giants in the English Super League. The 25-year-old half returns to Australia after playing 27 matches abroad. The Berala Bears and Toukley Hawks junior made his NRL debut in 2016 and played 42 first grade matches for the Knights and Bulldogs.

Jack Cogger will join Penrith. Photo: NRL Images.

Hosking locked in

The Panthers have also finally confirmed the signing of Zac Hosking, which was rumoured some months ago. He’s joining the club on a two-year deal from next season.

“Zac’s experience and capabilities make him an excellent addition to our squad and we’re delighted to welcome him on board. We believe Zac will really flourish in Panthers colours,” said Panthers Rugby League CEO, Matt Cameron.

Scoop confirmed

I told you in June that Charlie Staines was set for the exit ramp at Penrith, unable to find a permanent first grade spot given the emergence of Taylan May, with Brian To’o locking down the other wing spot and Dylan Edwards holding a mortgage on the number one jumper.

Staines’ exit was confirmed last week when he signed a deal with the Wests Tigers for the 2023 season.

It’s great that Staines earned himself a Premiership ring, and a Grand Final try, to celebrate his time at Penrith.

Bailey to exit?

I’m hearing rumours that Zac Bailey may not return to the Panthers as the club’s ground announcer next season.

The talented Bailey’s commitments with Channel Nine may prevent him from returning to BlueBet Stadium to MC game days.

The club is keen to retain him. A final call will be made during the pre-season.

Panthers ground announcer Zac Bailey. Photo: Penrith Panthers.

Another Panther cub

Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo has announced he and his partner are expecting their second child next year. Congratulations to the pair.

Partners again

The Western Weekender and Panthers have announced their long-running sponsorship partnership will continue in 2023, with the paper agreeing to a new one-year deal.

Peach returns

Charlie Staines’ exit opened the door for the Wests Tigers to release Tyrone Peachey, allowing him to return to the Panthers next season.

It’s a one-year deal and Penrith officials are keen to see how the experienced utility goes and where he fits in to Ivan Cleary’s side before committing to anything longer.

Peachey has already played 109 games for Penrith, but has struggled to find form since joining the Gold Coast in 2019 and then Wests Tigers in 2022.

“I look forward to welcoming Tyrone and his family back home to Panthers for the 2023 NRL season,” Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said.


Tyrone Peachey at Hoyts Penrith last week.

OAK back on board

Despite the odd rumour doing the rounds that OAK Plus was finishing up their time with Penrith, they’ll be back on the front of the jersey next season, it was confirmed this week.

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