Almost 12 months ago, the Penrith Panthers surprised almost the entire competition and rounded off a huge winning streak and stormed their way into a grand final.
Their style of play, their youth and exuberance had other teams’ fans riding their bandwagon, to bring home a premiership to the foot of the mountains. Going into the grand final, they were a huge chance, and although they came up short at Stadium Australia, they gained a lot of, let’s say ‘bandwagon’ fans, who just rode the joy of the Panthers for 2020.
Fast forward 12 months, and the seemingly “enjoyable and exciting” Panthers team have almost tipped the other end of the scale, as a team that overall rugby league fans despise.
In the past few weeks, the Panthers have had their fair share of dramas that have definitely accredited to this new found hate. In the weeks leading up to their qualifying final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary publicly stated that his son Nathan should be taken care of, in regards to kick pressure.
Just the past week, albeit in a victory, a lot of fans seem to believe the Panthers scraped through after some very contentious officiating calls, which ended up sinking the Parramatta Eels. To make matters worse, a trainer involved in stopping the game when Parramatta were on the front foot has just been fined and suspended from further participation this year.
Crazy two weeks for the Panthers, hey?
These circumstances have had so much bile and disgust pointed towards them, and it just shows how things can change in a 12-month period.
What else about the Panthers are people not attracted to?
Is it the constant dancing and larrikin like behaviour prior to games from players such as Brian To’o and Jarome Luai? Is it a personal grief with their fans? Is it the success, possibly? Or is it a culmination of everything rolled into one big ball of hatred?
The Panthers are a very young side, and show that in how they play and act off the field. Players like Luai and To’o tend to enjoy singing and dancing prior to games and always bring humour to their post-game interviews.
Their “over the top” try celebrations where they tend to high jump on top of each other seem to rub people the wrong way, as well as their overall mannerisms in the winning of a penalty or an opposition sides’ mistake. Players like Luai are known for getting in opponents’ faces when they make mistakes, and it seems to have people offside with the star playmaker.
The cry for protection of Nathan Cleary has seemed to throw people offside as well, as his father is his head coach, and it’s more like coddling than protection. The addition of a non-fan favourite in Tevita Pangai Jr has also attributed to all this newfound hatred.
Based on social media and comments made online, it seems that out of the remaining teams, the majority of fans want the Panthers to lose more-so than the other three remaining sides.
Personally, I can somewhat agree with the cockiness that they ooze. A moment last year seemed to tip me off, when winger Stephen Crichton carried in an opposing player into their try celebration circle, and when that player retaliated, played it off as if he had done nothing wrong.
I do, however, love the personality of To’o, as he is only having fun and seems to never niggle in a game. The likes of Luai, who seems to be a very confident kid at that, the antics of Liam Martin, can sometimes irk me, but even I am surprised by the abuse they’re copping in regards to fans not liking them. A huge difference to 2020!
What are your thoughts, Roarers? Do you love, or hate the Penrith Panthers?