Friday night lights: As the Finals picture starts to become clearer, a home final at BlueBet Stadium has never looked more important for the Panthers. A road trip in the first week of the Finals is the likely scenario should the Panthers finish third or fourth, and it could even be a trip to New Zealand. Should the Panthers grab a top two finish, there’s no question the club will be pushing for the match to be scheduled to open the Finals on the Friday night. It’s an extremely lucrative timeslot for the Leagues Club pre and post game.
Martin’s new deal: It was no surprise to anyone, but the Panthers last week confirmed that forward Liam Martin had signed an extended contract that will keep him at the foot of the Mountains until at least the end of the 2027 season. “Marto is a quality player. He’s come through this system and he loves the Panthers – you can see that by the way he plays,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said. “He’s getting better each and every year. I think his work in the representative arenas have been really strong. He’s a really important player for us and it’s great to see him re-sign with the club.”
Peach sticks solid: Panthers centre Tyrone Peachey has smartly brushed off interest from South Sydney to re-sign with Penrith for the 2024 season. After re-joining the Panthers ahead of the 2023 campaign, Peachey extended his deal for a further season last Friday. “The Panthers is home for me and my family. I was really happy to re-join the club earlier this year, so to be staying here means a lot to me.” Meanwhile, Peachey will miss the next two games after entering an early plea for a high tackle. Peachey was charged with a Grade 3 Careless High Tackle for contact on Sharks player Jack Williams in the 57th minute of Saturday night’s win at BlueBet Stadium.
Salmon headed for exit: Penrith utility Jaeman Salmon is headed to Canterbury next year after signing with the club on a two-year deal. The 24-year-old will get more game time at the Bulldogs and joins the long list of Panthers now at Belmore. Interestingly, Salmon dropped out of Penrith’s top 17 recently but has emerged again this week.
Cogger a Knight: Back-up Panthers playmaker Jack Cogger will return home to Newcastle next season. The 25-year-old has done an excellent job filling in for Nathan Cleary this year, but it comes as no surprise that he’s looking to extend his career elsewhere – much like Sean O’Sullivan, now at the Dolphins, did last year. I’m hearing Penrith attempted to extend him but the desire to return to Newcastle on the three-year deal was far too great to pass up. He’ll finish the season in Penrith before moving back up north at the end of the year.
Spotted: Penrith coach Ivan Cleary in the car park of the Panthers Academy with a surprise addition – a surfboard!
Spotted: Penrith Citizen of the Year Royce Simmons mingling with footy fans at Panthers Leagues Club following Penrith’s huge win over the Sharks last Saturday night.
Spotted: Panthers 2003 Premiership-winning captain Craig Gower enjoying the company of friends at Squires Terrace Bar at Panthers late on Saturday evening.
Stadium briefing: I’m told members of Penrith’s Board have now met with State Government officials to get a clearer picture of what the situation is when it comes to the upcoming stadium upgrade and the funding associated with it. As it stands the club is still working towards the probability of a major upgrade in 2025, which would force the Panthers to play out of CommBank Stadium in Parramatta for the year.
Geyer eyes first grade debut: Now that he’s been upgraded to Penrith’s top 30, rising star Mavrik Geyer has set his sights on an NRL debut. There’s a slim chance it could happen this year if coach Ivan Cleary has the luxury of resting his big-name players at the back end of the season. But a 2024 debut is more likely – and given his pedigree, it’ll be one hell of a moment when it happens.
Huge funds raised: The 2023 edition of Sportbet’s Try July was the biggest on record with players from the NRL and NRLW getting right behind the initiative and raising $400,000. The beneficiaries of money raised this year are former NRL player Nathan Stapleton and former NRL coach Daniel Anderson.