“I thought he was going to kill me”: The inside story on John Lang’s sacking from Penrith

Former Penrith coach John Lang. Photo: NRL Images.
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Former Panthers CEO Glenn Matthews has spoken out about his infamous ‘broken promise’ to Premiership-winning coach John Lang and revealed the two have never repaired their relationship since a dramatic morning in a Northern Territory hotel room nearly 20 years ago.

Speaking to the Weekender’s On The Record podcast, to be released on Monday, Matthews recounts the extraordinary lead-up to informing Lang he wouldn’t be required after the 2006 season after he signed Matt Elliott to coach the side.

Lang had guided Penrith to a Premiership in 2003 but player unrest had started to become an issue in 2005.

“John said to me – make me a promise, promise me that the day you decide you don’t want me anymore, I’m the first person you tell,” Matthews tells the podcast.

“I said John, I give you that promise and I gave him that promise. It came back to haunt me.”

Matthews revealed he intended to talk to Elliott during the 2006 season, but interest from Newcastle forced discussions forward and a deal was done prior to that season kicking off.

Matthews, who had already briefed the Board, told Lang of his decision in a Northern Territory hotel room after a trial against Parramatta.

“I knocked on his door and he’s laying in bed in his undies. I walked in and said we needed to have a chat.

Former Panthers CEO Glenn Matthews.

“I’m sitting on the side of the bed, he’s in his undies, and I told him. I thought he was going to kill me. He was so angry.

“It made things extremely uncomfortable for the rest of the year.”

Matthews and Lang have barely spoken since that morning.

“For me to not to be on even speaking terms with John, I was said about that but I understood it. I don’t hold that against him at all,” he said.

On The Record with Glenn Matthews will be released on Monday morning. Search ‘Western Weekender’ wherever you listen to podcasts.

Troy Dodds

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.

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