Masked Panther: Players skate on thin social media ice

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Tago’s takes a concern

Taylan May’s Instagram posts raised eyebrows recently, and there’s another Panther also skating on thin ice in terms of his social media presence.

Izack Tago recently re-posted a news video that encouraged people to get the flu shot ahead of winter. He accompanied it with a clown and circus emoji and the line: “better go get my sixth booster”.

Tago is 22-years-old and does not have a medical degree. His elite fitness likely ensures he wouldn’t be hit too hard by the flu. But not everyone is so lucky. It’s not the first time Tago’s Instagram posts have left people shaking their head.

It’s not a good look, and it might be time Penrith took greater control over the message its players/employees are presenting on socials given this issue seems to raise its head often. It feels like it’s only one post away from escalating into a full-blown scandal.

Izack Tago. Photo: Melinda Jane.

May mystery

Meantime, the Panthers are adamant Taylan May didn’t miss last weekend’s clash against the Tigers as punishment for that Instagram video inside a speeding car. Despite the curious timing, club officials say he missed the game for legitimate personal reasons.

May didn’t make the trip to Bathurst even as a spectator, and was spotted watching Penrith’s NSW Cup match at BlueBet Stadium instead.

Cleary popular as ever

He may not have played in Bathurst last Saturday, but Nathan Cleary still made the trip with the squad and proved very popular among the locals. He spent plenty of time posing for photos and signing autographs.


Panthers legend Royce Simmons grabbing a sandwich at Percy Plunkett in Penrith last week.


A growing collection of Panthers photos and memorabilia at Crotty’s Bakery in Kingswood.

Junior numbers soar

Over 9,000 players are registered in the Penrith Junior Rugby League District this year, smashing the previous record. There’s 626 teams registered this year, up from 571 last year. It shows the future is in good shape in the district.

Tommy Talks Footy

Well done to Penrith coach Ivan Cleary and a host of players who gave up plenty of time to speak to ‘Tommy Talks Footy’, a TikTok account run by a passionate Tigers fan. It was touching to see the time offered to this true fan of the game.

@tommy.talks.footy #tommytalksfooty ♬ original sound – Tommy Talks Footy

Mudgee locked in

The Panthers this week confirmed what I’ve been saying for more than a year now – the time away from Penrith for the stadium re-build will include an extra regional game. The club will play in Mudgee for the 2025 and 2026 seasons; as well as Bathurst.

The two-year Mudgee deal is unlikely to be extended, with Penrith to return to 11 home games at the new Penrith Stadium from 2027.

In addition to the Mudgee and Bathurst games, it’s likely Penrith will give up a home game to Magic Round next year as well as Las Vegas, leaving just eight home matches in Sydney at CommBank Stadium.

Forgotten show goes live

‘100% Footy’ is a pretty good rugby league program on Nine but has been treated shabbily by the network over the years, shafted into late-night timeslots and often forgotten about. Finally, Nine has started airing the program live on 9NOW from 7.30pm on Monday nights.

Annesley’s admission

NRL Head of Football Graham Annesley confirmed Penrith halfback Brad Schneider should have been sent to the sin bin for his foul on Justin Olam last Saturday. The incident was missed by the on-field officials and only picked up when the Tigers lodged a Captain’s Challenge.

But for the Tigers to be blowing up over the lack of sin-bin is ridiculous, especially given Aiden Sezer escaped an on-field penalty for his late hit on Schneider, which was later charged by the Match Review Committee. The Tigers scored soon after – they should count themselves lucky, not scorned.

Fish timing just right

It wasn’t necessarily deliberate but the timing worked out perfectly in terms of James Fisher-Harris’ departure being a potential distraction last week.

Fisher-Harris himself fronted the media for a standard interview session on Monday, while Ivan Cleary held his press conference on Tuesday. By the time the shock Fisher-Harris announcement was made on Wednesday, Penrith’s media commitments for the week were done – allowing them to focus solely on the game.

Fisher-Harris spoke for the first time in post-match interviews on Saturday.

James Fisher-Harris speaking to the media last week. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Panthers won’t overspend on Turuva

There’s no doubt the departure of James Fisher-Harris has freed up more salary cap space for Penrith in 2025 and 2026.

And yes, it may even allow them to up their offer to off-contract winger Sunia Turuva.

But Penrith won’t match rival clubs for fun; which means Turuva will still have a tough call to make at some stage. Stay within a winning system, or take a gamble elsewhere but for more cash.

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