Masked Panther: How 2003 team will celebrate at Grand Final reunion

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Reunion for the ages

The vast majority of Penrith’s 2003 Grand Final team will meet up next Friday before the 20th anniversary of the game against the Roosters is celebrated at BlueBet Stadium.

Former Panther and key corporate figure Lou Zivanovic has been one of the driving forces behind getting the reunion organised. The 2003 players will spend Friday at the Drink West brewery and Brisket Boys, and are happy with fans to mingle with them.

At this stage, it appears only Martin Lang and Preston Campbell won’t make it.

After an afternoon of memories and Scott Sattler’s tackle being spoken about at least 150 times, the team will head to BlueBet Stadium where they’ll undertake a lap of honour ahead of the Panthers v Roosters game. They’ll watch the game from the CABE and Doolan Plumbing corporate boxes.

Tony Puletua with the trophy in 2003. Photo: Action Photographics.

Griffin truths emerge

The story that emerged about Anthony Griffin’s time at Penrith in the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend was no surprise to anyone familiar with the club during that period. Phil Gould copped a fair bit of criticism for sacking Griffin while the Panthers were bound for a top four finish in 2018 but he was left with no choice, with internal dramas at the club getting more and more serious.

Not only had the players lost faith in the coach, but staff had become increasingly concerned about the way he was managing the team. Several staff refused to work with Griffin, preferring to stick with roles outside of the day-to-day NRL team.

Former Panthers coach Anthony Griffin. Photo: Megan Dunn

Board vacancy

A year on from the Panthers’ Board elections, a casual Board vacancy has emerged. Applications are now open to fill the position of an Independent Director for a three-year team.

The Independent Director will be selected by the Penrith Rugby League Club Board members, with the club primarily seeking people with experience and qualifications in law, accounting, commerce, construction, marketing, rugby league and event management.

Nominations close on May 12 and can be emailed to [email protected] or to Locked Bag 8322, Penrith NSW 2751.

Dancing on

The players and officials were not the only ones dealing with the atrocious conditions in Bathurst last Saturday night. The Pantherettes powered on through the downpour – dancing and cheering up a storm despite the obvious challenges.

The Pantherettes dance up a storm in Bathurst. Photo: NRL Images.

Fans turn sour

Some of the behaviour by so-called Penrith fans on Facebook groups following the loss to Wests Tigers last weekend was nothing short of disgraceful. The commentary by some people in these groups is awful; not to mention legally problematic in some cases.

I can only presume some are newer fans who don’t understand rugby league is about winning AND losing, and overcoming a whole range of challenges along the way. Sensible debate is nowhere to be found in some of these groups.

Paps backs Luai

I revealed long before it was a common talking point that Jarome Luai’s NSW Origin jersey was in serious doubt.

It now feels inevitable that Luai will miss selection this year with Nicho Hynes from Cronulla to play alongside Nathan Cleary for the Origin series opener in Adelaide later this month.

But Luai has a fan in injured Melbourne fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen. The Premiership winner, who bamboozled Penrith in the 2020 decider, says the club combination of Luai and Cleary should guide the Blues into the series and has backed the duo to shine.

Jarome Luai. Photo: NRL Images.

Great read

A new State of Origin book by sports journalist Liam Hauser has just been released.

In The Immortals of State of Origin, Hauser delves into the Origin careers of his top player selections, highlighting each individual’s triumphs and heroics.

The Immortals of State of Origin is filled with memorable moments, action photographs and Origin career statistics; includes over 100 images and 26 chapters profiling the greatest players in State of Origin’s first 40-plus years.

The book is out now. I’m told to keep an eye out in the next few weeks for a giveaway in the Weekender!

Nathan Cleary takes photos with fans in Bathurst.

Dedication to be proud of

It was probably the last thing they wanted to do given the conditions and the loss to the Wests Tigers, but Penrith players stuck around at Carrington Park last weekend to take photos with eager fans after the game.

Hip drop frustration

The NRL says players, fans and officials shouldn’t be confused by the hip drop tackle. But it’s pretty obvious that everyone – from the average punter to rookies, experienced players and commentators – are indeed confused by it.

Soni Luke should never have been sin binned for his tackle last Saturday night, and the Match Review Committee essentially backed that up with a low grade charge that resulted in only a fine.

It’s not clear cut at all – and Ivan Cleary’s comments in the post-match press conference show the growing frustration coaches are having with the interpretations and perceived crackdown.

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