The Penrith Panthers have a bright future

Mark Campbell Roar Guru

By Mark Campbell, Mark Campbell is a Roar Guru

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    The Penrith Panthers lie at the foot of the mountains in Sydney’s west. They run one of the game’s largest junior rugby league nurseries in one of the fastest growing areas in Western Sydney.

    The benefits of being located where they are will be felt in the future, but that is only if the club capitalises on its opportunities now.

    Since the Panthers inaugural season of 1967 the club has achieved limited success. In the early days the club struggled both on and off the field. The colours of brown and white along with the fact the team faded out in matches gave rise to the nickname the chocolate soldiers. The club’s early years were not their glory years.

    It wasn’t until the mid-80s with a crop of young talent that the club began to come into its own, and by 1990 they had broken through for their first shot at the title. They were up against an all-conquering Canberra team, so the odds were against them. The fact the team and the Penrith area celebrated making the grand final as if they had won one did not help their cause. Despite this, they were valiant in defeat.

    The 1991 season saw the Penrith Panthers win their maiden title. It was party time. Things were looking bright. The locals had a team that could dominate for years and create a legacy for the ages.

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    But then tragedy struck. I won’t revisit this period in the club’s history other than to say that it set the team back for years to come. It was a sad time.

    The Panthers were not to reach the summit again until the 2003 season, when they upset the Sydney Roosters for their second title. But once again the Panthers struggled to maintain that success.

    The club has recently reorganised itself and is aiming to achieve greatness again. Part of their aim is to have the Penrith Panthers act as a whole club. The whole-club approach means that it is a junior and senior club and that players in the region can go from being a junior to a senior player. That plan is commendable, and although it hasn’t brought a title now, it is not to say it won’t work in the future.

    So where to from here for Penrith? Ultimately titles should be the goal. That is why all the clubs participate in the first place. However, Penrith should be aiming much higher.

    In 2017 Penrith comprised 19,139 members, third amongst the Sydney clubs. It is not high enough. Penrith is very much under-utilising their market. They reside in one of the fastest growing regions in the country. The population for the city of Penrith alone, not counting towns or the area around it, is roughly 200,000, yet Penrith and the area’s population is set to climb drastically in the next few years.

    The key for the Panthers moving forward is to translate this population into active fans. At the moment the Penrith Panthers average only about 12,000 fans per game. This attendance rate is below the average of the game and highlights that the club needs to do more to engage and entice fans to the game.

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    This low attendance makes one wonder if region supports the Panthers or if the area is made up of fans who have moved from other areas and consequently follow other teams. Maybe the locals could explain why their crowds are so low.

    What will be interesting is whether, if ANZ Stadium is rebuilt, the Penrith Panthers will be forced to play some games there. This situation may take them away from their heartland, but it may also open up other opportunities.

    In any case the people of Penrith are proud of their area. Some may cringe at the thought of travelling out Penrith way, but you will be surprised to find the place is a lot more pleasant than you would have imagined.

    For the fans of this club the key is not to rest easy. Greatness awaits, but the club must reach for it. For the club to achieve greatness it needs to do a few things better. More engagement with the schools and community is required so that kids grow up wanting to play for Penrith instead of other clubs.

    Further, the club must do all it can to promote membership, which is a cornerstone of continued success. Having fans being active paying supporters is an accurate indicator of a club’s supporter base.

    With the club’s junior pathway system and the growth of its population base the Penrith Panthers are poised to do well now and into the future.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • December 21st 2017 @ 7:49am
      PanthertillIdie said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      I agree that membership is not high enough. As you rightly said though, it was third of the Sydney clubs in 2017. I think there are some clubs in the more populated areas that should be worried about membership. You also correctly pointed out that it is one of the fastest growing regions in Sydney. I honestly don’t see many areas for concern.
      Everything is set up for success – short term and long term. 12,000 crowd average isn’t great but what is this being compared against? There are other clubs with far less stability and future positivity who are attracting crowds similar or less and the overcrowded Sydney market is a separate discussion.
      I vehemently disagree with the suggestion that Penrith are not engaging with their community or schools enough! As a follower of all things Panthers I can assure you that they are tapping into the local audience and junior environments with regular community engagement.
      Penrith are a sleeping giant who have their future in their own hands. If the marketing men and women get things right then Phil Gould’s assertion that Penrith should be a N.S.W version of the Broncos is not too far from being accurate.
      They will always be knocked because they are the unfashionable westies. I for one can’t wait until they next stick it up a glamour club in a grand final that props itself up through wealthy benefactors. Look out Cooper Cronk!

      • December 21st 2017 @ 10:05am
        paul said | December 21st 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        You’re right, Penrith is a sleeping giant – a bit like Rip Van Winkle. They need to wake up and use the talent at their disposal to win premierships. Prior to round one this year, they were amongst the favourites to win, yet their first 7 rounds were appalling. The rest of the year wasn’t a whole lot better, with Moylan’s sabbatical and other issues dogging the Club.

        I have a soft spot for the Panthers and, on paper, they have some really talented players, but they need these guys to both perform better and do so regularly. This in turn might get a few more people along to games.

    • December 21st 2017 @ 10:24am
      Greg Ambrose said | December 21st 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      It’s ironic that 3 clubs who have the poorest junior base , the Storm, Roosters and Sea Eagles have had much more success than the Panthers and Eels who I thought were going to be dominant over the last few decades.

      A fair few Eels juniors have won titles over the last few decades but none of them playing for the Eels.

    • December 21st 2017 @ 10:41am
      Greg said | December 21st 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      5 year plan?

    • Roar Guru

      December 21st 2017 @ 12:08pm
      The Barry said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

      Maybe they’ll have a better year in 2018 without the ridiculous amount of hype that they faced in 2017.

      I didn’t buy into the premiership favouritism this year. They finished sixth in 2016 and then only because the Dogs imploded in the last few rounds.

      A lot of the hype seemed to be based on their semi final victory against an injury ravaged Dogs. Even then the Dogs dominated the first 40. Far play to the Panthers they smoked them in the second half and looked bloody good doing it but it was hardly a performance on which to base 2017 favouritism.

      They need to fix their inconsistency to be successful. Devastating in attack when they turn up but they still give the sense of a slightly soft underbelly when the heat is on.

      I’d love to see Bryce Cartwright bounce back. Very entertaining player to watch at his best and at his best I think could be a great pick for the Blues.

    • Roar Guru

      December 21st 2017 @ 12:31pm
      Nat said | December 21st 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      They’ve had a bright future for a few years now but with they way they burn through spine players it’s little wonder they haven’t gone further. In 2016 they had Hardaker, Martin, Taylor, Segeyaro, Will Smith, Soward and Moylan. I’m not sure Maloney is the man to take them higher in 2018 but they need a consistent spine to support all the other ‘potentials’ in the team.

      • December 21st 2017 @ 1:16pm
        BA Sports said | December 21st 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        No one you have mentioned there is a game changing player. Granted Sowie won a comp and Moylan shows glimpses. But spine players are leaders – none of those players are leaders and none better than a borderline rep player. If you want your spine to be set in concrete for a long time, I would say the Panthers have banked on 4 other players to be their spine, and decided those guys were expendable. I tend to agree, but time will obviously tell.

    • December 21st 2017 @ 1:11pm
      BA Sports said | December 21st 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

      No offence to the writer, but this is written by someone who doesn’t attend Panthers games.
      Say what you like about Gould and about the Panthers but they do more to create a family atmosphere and an improved game day experience than any other club (acknowledging that the ground announcer is a pain in the back side). They get branding they get entertainment and they get commercialisation better than any other NRL club.

      Now their ground is a dump, not to the level of Leichhardt or Brookvale, but it is heading that way. I do wonder if they have a plan in place for development of the Stadium. It wouldn’t surprise me if they have some money set aside and are waiting for the Stadium debate to die down before they ask the Government for a handout to support their works – remembering Stuart Ayres is from that area.

      On the field, they have Cleary and Edwards and will soon have May and Egan. That could very easily be a spine that challenges what we have seen from the Storm over the last decade. Certainly it is the most complete spine (in terms of potential). The advantage they will have over the Storm is a big junior farm that you can hit and miss on and still come out on top. More than any other club they have the best chance of being a regular contender over the next 10 years.

      • Roar Rookie

        December 21st 2017 @ 2:07pm
        Hard Yards said | December 21st 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

        You know the only fans who complain about Brookie Oval are those that come in to support the Visitors. The locals get it. Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris might not be leading edge when it comes to buildings, but you wouldn’t call it a dump.

        • December 21st 2017 @ 3:24pm
          BA Sports said | December 21st 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

          No, the Notre Dame is considered an amazing piece of gothic architecture that has tradition and about 700 years of history that people take time to ensure is maintained in its original state. People travel from around the world to see it.
          Brookvale Oval has been a substandard sporting facility since the day it opened. Everyone, including its primary tennant, the Sea Eagles want it redeveloped. People don’t come from around the world to see it, in fact people in the city where it resides, Sydney, stay away from it in droves…. because it is a two toilet, termite infested dump.

      • December 21st 2017 @ 2:17pm
        Albo said | December 21st 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

        As a long term, regularly suffering Panthers fan since they entered the big time league in 1967, I have seen plenty of hype and promise and plenty of eventual disappointment. Amongst all that I have had a few great moments like 1991 when they were always going to win that comp, and 2003 when I still don’t know how they won the comp? All throughout their history, the Panthers have produced plenty of young talent but have rarely managed to mould it into a consistently winning combination, and I don’t believe the Club management of its football fortunes has improved one iota in its 50 year history. What Club lets a player like Brad Fittler walk away from the Club ? And in the modern game when key spine players run the team, and the good ones are as scarce as hens teeth, what club would let the calibre of Matt Moylan & Te Mare Martin go in the one year ? So for me, the Panthers will always produce plenty of great talent, but I have no confidence in the Club managing that talent to produce the outcome that the loyal fans would expect. Going into 2018 and beyond, the Panthers again have a potentially great spine developing with Edwards, Cleary, Maloney ? & shortly Wayde Egan. But come 2020 I wonder just how many will still be Panthers ?

        • December 21st 2017 @ 3:16pm
          BA Sports said | December 21st 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

          Albo; You know only three clubs (Brisbane, Melbourne and Manly) have won more than two premierships since 1991. So “only” two premierships is hardly cause to bring out the kleenex.
          And you are far from the only club to let go of good players. Agree with your comments about Fittler but that was 12 years ago. Manly let Bob Fulton go and it didn’t slow them down. As for Martin and Moylan, Martin was completely disinterested at the Panthers and to be honest has proven nothing at any level, despite the undeserved hype. Moylan is hit and miss and you got fair compensation in return for him.

          My feeling is they have their spine they want coming through and they want to lock them all in for long contracts – the way they did with the crew in the early 2000’s.

          To be fair you had a good run with a spine of Wesser, Campbell, Gower and Priddis for about 7 years with mainstays Rooney, Lewis, and Puletua by their sides. So they developed a pretty strong nucleus that sure only produced one premiership, but there are not many nucleus’s that have the fortune and skill to pull together more than that in the modern era.

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