Masked Panther: Cleary likely to target Redcliffe return

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Huge blow for Panthers, Blues

A devastated Nathan Cleary is likely to target Penrith’s Round 20 clash with the Dolphins in Redcliffe as his return date after suffering a hamstring injury against the Dragons last Sunday.

Scans on Monday revealed Cleary would miss up to six weeks with the injury, which rules him out of Origin II and most likely the third match in Sydney as well. Ironically, it’s the third straight season that Cleary will miss a chunk of football in the middle of the year – and it certainly hasn’t harmed Penrith’s Premiership chances previously.

After leaving the field on Sunday in the first half, Cleary returned to the sideline in a hoodie to watch the rest of the match unfold. Tyrone Peachey gave him plenty when Jack Cogger landed a perfect kick for Brian To’o to score on the stroke of half-time.

Nathan Cleary leaves the field in the first half. Photo: NRL Images.

Star of the show

With regular ground announcer Glen Hawke unavailable last Sunday night, Lyndal Rogers stepped in to handle the hosting duties at BlueBet Stadium for the clash between the Panthers and Dragons. She was brilliant and the fans immediately warmed to her – sparking calls for the radio announcer to be a regular home game fixture.

Since the departure of Scott McRae a few years ago, the Panthers have attempted a more corporate approach with its ground announcers in the shape of Zac Bailey and Hawke. Neither have completely won over the fans. Rogers was a breath of fresh air.

Fill-in ground announcer Lyndal Rogers.

Pedro’s shout

A drama with the TV connection at Penrith’s Drink West last Wednesday night meant a big crowd on deck to watch the State of Origin series opener was about to be bitterly disappointed.

Thankfully, it was quickly resolved thanks to a laptop and a 9NOW stream. To make up for the mishap, UFC star Tyson Pedro jumped on the bar at half-time, apologised and shouted everyone a round of beers.

Sponsor withdraws comment

One NZ CEO Jason Paris has agreed to withdraw his comments regarding the integrity of NRL referees and match officials in the wake of the Warriors v Panthers match back in Round 10. The Warriors sponsor was in hot water following his comments, which raised significant concerns at the NRL. Last week, he backtracked.

“I unreservedly apologise for the comments I made about NRL match officials,” Paris said in a statement.

“NRL referees are not cheats and are not biased. They go to work every week and do a tough job so that we get to enjoy the greatest game. Impugning their professionalism was a mistake. People can watch a game of footy and legitimately question the decision-making, but questioning the integrity of officials is unacceptable.”

A united front

If you ever wanted an example of Penrith’s strong culture, you only had to watch how the run-off to half-time went down last Sunday night.

In his club debut, replacement halfback Jack Cogger was picked out by Fox Sports for a quick interview after the half-time siren. The entire team waited for Cogger to finish the interview so they could run off together. It’s the little things that count.


Panthers and Blues centre Stephen Crichton swamped by fans when arriving at BlueBet Stadium last Sunday. His upcoming departure to the Bulldogs has done little to hinder the love supporters have for him.

Stephen Crichton mixes with fans before the game against the Dragons. Photo: NRL Images.


Former Panther turned Eels star J’maine Hopgood watching his old club get the victory over the struggling Dragons on Sunday at BlueBet Stadium.

Cogger in line for extension

Even before his unexpected club debut on Sunday night, the Panthers were looking at extending the contract of back-up halfback Jack Cogger.

The club knows it needs a legitimate fill-in for Nathan Cleary given his regular representative commitments. Cogger is only contracted for this season but is a certainty to get himself a new deal.

Awkward song choice

It didn’t go unnoticed that the Panthers played ‘I Like To Move It’ during a lengthy break in play last Sunday night while Dragons forward Jack De Belin was motionless on the ground after being knocked out. An innocent mistake, but pretty ordinary that the song kept playing for several minutes while medical staff worked on De Belin.

Radio waves

As the NRL season heats up, it’s no surprise to see the rugby league stations doing well in the latest radio ratings. 2GB, ABC and Triple M all either held their audience steady or increased it on weekends in the latest survey. 2GB remains the market leader, and experienced a slight increase on weekends in the latest ratings – a win for the Continuous Call Team.

Deserved success for Mielekamp

Shaun Mielekamp had the difficult job of being Penrith’s Marketing Manager during some lean seasons between 2018 and 2012.

At one stage he even had to pose as a security guard as part of a tongue-in-cheek story about the OAK Fridge and the NRL’s desire for the Panthers to remove it from press conferences.

Mielekamp has come a long way. He’s now CEO of the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League, who won the Grand Final last weekend.

Mielekamp is one of the nicest blokes in sport and deserves the success.

Shaun Mielekamp with the A-League trophy.

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