Masked Panther: Penrith’s nervous wait for Fifita call

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When will Cameron’s phone ring?

It will be a call from David Fifita’s manager to Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron that will determine whether the club’s bid for the powerhouse forward has been successful.

The Panthers have now done all they can do; it’s over to Fifita’s team to make a decision.

I understand Penrith coach Ivan Cleary had already met with the Titans forward by the time the news broke about the club’s interest on Sunday.

And how did the story land on Michael Chammas’ desk in-time for his regular cross at half-time of the Sunday afternoon game on Channel Nine? Well, I’ve been told by a well-placed source that the leak definitely came from within the Penrith side of the discussions, not Fifita’s – though the club is firm in saying this wasn’t the case.

David Fifita. Photo: NRL Photos.

NRL’s hard stance

I’m told the NRL is considering a re-working of its charges around dissent and contrary conduct towards referees. The rules would punish recalcitrant players who can’t keep their mouths shut when things don’t go their way.

It all comes in the wake of recent abuse of match officials, and the NRL is keen to ensure it has strong rules in place to discipline players who step out of line.

Cautious Cleary

The decision to rest Nathan Cleary from last Thursday’s match against Souths is a sign of what’s to come during the State of Origin period.

I’m hearing the club is keen to keep Cleary’s workload manageable during the representative season.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the chances of the Blues halfback playing for Penrith against Manly on June 9 (four days after Origin I) are slim at best. Same goes for clashes against the Cowboys and Dolphins, which also follow Origin games.

The Panthers have been impressed with Brad Schneider and won’t have any issues with him taking the reigns for a couple of games during that period.

Nathan Cleary. Photo: NRL Photos.


A host of Penrith players switching codes to cheer on the GWS Giants against the Swans at the SCG last weekend.

Penrith players cheer on the Giants.

Edwards leads Dally Ms

Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards has joined Cronulla’s Nicho Hynes at the top of the leaderboard after nine rounds of Dally M voting. Both Edwards and Hynes share top spot on 24 points, with Canterbury’s Viliame Kikau sitting a point behind in third.

Edwards is having a stellar season and ironically the biggest threat to his Dally M claim outside of injury is likely to be potential selection in the NSW side for the State of Origin series.

Tago cops ban

Izack Tago will sit out Friday’s clash against Canterbury after copping a one match ban for a hip drop tackle last weekend. Plenty believe he was lucky to only get a week, but he’ll be back on deck for Magic Round next weekend.


Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary, his younger brother Jett and rookie forward Mav Geyer a St Dominic’s College on Tuesday for the inaugural Tim Sheens Cup. Nathan even grabbed a bite to eat from the school canteen.

Fans on the Field

The Panthers will be bringing back Fans on the Field on Friday night, allowing supporters to run onto the hallowed BlueBet Stadium turf. There will be a second siren about 30 minutes after full-time, indicating fans can head onto the field. Of more interest to yours truly, KFC is giving away 400 free Go Buckets at the game on Friday night.

Business as usual

The Panthers are the designed away team for Magic Round against the Warriors next weekend. It means they’re free of any promotional duties for the weekend, and it’ll essentially be a usual away game program for Ivan Cleary’s side.


Which two NRL journalists were seen in a heated debate in Penrith this week about who should play fullback for New South Wales in the upcoming State of Origin series?


Ivan Cleary and Brian To’o catching up in the car park at the Panthers Academy on Wednesday afternoon. Cleary rushed out to see the metre-eating winger as soon as he arrived.

Brian To’o and Ivan Cleary. Photo: Melinda Jane.

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