Masked Panther: Luai love defies club loyalties

Everybody loves Jarome

The efforts to paint Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai as a rugby league bad boy or outcast clearly aren’t having much impact.

Check out this awesome photo captured prior to last week’s game against Manly at 4 Pines Park.

Manly youngsters couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a photo with the Tigers-bound Luai, despite cheering against him a short time later. Luai was happy to oblige.

Jarome Luai takes photos with Manly ball boys at Brookie. Photo: NRL Photos.

Presser delay

It took almost an hour after the full-time siren for Ivan Cleary and Isaah Yeo to front the media following last week’s loss to Manly. And when they did, the entire press conference lasted just two minutes and 15 seconds. There was very little to say after what was one of Penrith’s most disappointing performances in recent years.


Lara Bingle and Sam Worthington watching the Panthers versus Sea Eagles clash at 4 Pines Park last Saturday evening.

Lara Bingle and Sam Worthington. Photo: NRL Photos.

Players take time off

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has given his players almost a week off given the bye falls this weekend. It probably couldn’t come at a better time given last week’s loss to Manly.

The break will also help prepare the players for a busy week in Bathurst next week in the lead-up to the Saturday afternoon clash with the Wests Tigers.

In defence of Todd

NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley has backed his officials over the controversial Tolutau Koula try for Manly against Penrith on Saturday night. Referee Todd Smith opted not to call what appeared to be an obvious knock-on in the lead-up to the try, and the Bunker subsequently cleared it.

Annesley played audio from inside the Bunker at his Monday briefing, and it at least provided some insight into the decision. But nobody can deny that if that knock-on happened in general play, in 99.9 per cent of cases it would be called a knock-on. If the call on Saturday is the new standard, let’s hope the officials stick to it.

Referee Todd Smith. Photo: NRL Photos.

McRae drops a bomb or two

Former Penrith Panthers Ground Announcer Scott McRae has opened up about his 2019 axing on the Western Weekender’s ‘On The Record’ podcast.

McRae says he’s never been given a proper explanation about why his 20-season run came to an end, though admits the dust has now settled and he’s moved on. However, he remains highly critical of the game day experience and the lack of passion he feels exists around the ground announcers at NRL venues these days. You can search Western Weekender on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or iHeart to listen, or go to


No chance of WCC in Vegas

There’s been a few suggestions doing the rounds that the World Club Challenge could be held in Las Vegas next year, should one of the competing teams end up winning the Premiership. It simply won’t happen.

The Vegas teams need to be locked in months in advance to ensure proper preparation and time for fans to plan and book trips. With the Premiers not decided until October, it wouldn’t be fair to randomly axe one of the four Vegas teams and replace them with the English champions should everything just happen to fall into place.


Liam Martin auditioning as the next fill-in for Nathan Cleary should he go down again later in the year.

Liam Martin shows off his kicking skills. Photo: NRL Photos.

Panthers now shorter

How’s this for an oddity? Going into last weekend’s clash against Manly, Ladbrokes had the Panthers as $3.50 favourites to win the title. After the poor performance against Manly, they’ve somehow become shorter – and are now $3.00 to lift the trophy on Grand Final Day at Accor Stadium. You’re getting slightly better odds at the TAB, where the Panthers are $3.25 to win their fourth straight comp.

Chairman’s winner

Congratulations to Adam Duffey who is the winner of the Chairman’s Lounge tickets via our recent promotion.

Spill the tea

If you’ve heard some Panthers gossip, you’ve got a scoop or spotted a player out and about, I want to know about it. I don’t keep secrets, but I do protect my sources. Email [email protected].