2003 Clive Churchill Medal winner Luke Priddis has giving one of the most honest, and damning interviews I personally have ever seen from a player about his own club.
Priddis, who has played for the Canberra Raiders, Brisbane Broncos and Penrith Panthers, has represented Country Origin, New South Wales and Australia, and who was the man of the match in the Panthers 2003 Premiership winning side, has given an insight into a split within the Panthers between players, the coaching staff and the management.
For those that don’t know, Priddis is contract to penrith through until the end of 2008, however in 2007 the club went to him and told him to look for another club as they didnt want him.
This obviously angered Priddis, a loyal player who has given his all to the club and who has set up strong roots in the Western Sydney region, and who was one of the few decent players in the 2007 Panthers lineup that went on to “win” the wooden spoon.
However in 2008, Priddis has decided to put that all behind him. Here is what he had to say on the matter:
“I’ve probably changed my tune a bit,” Priddis said. “I came in and started afresh. I’ve just tried to forget about last year.”
Was it easy?
“It wasn’t. I’m a straight shooter. What happened last year wasn’t nice. I didn’t feel that any of it was justified. There was never an issue from my point of view. To this day I would never change the direction I (took). There was nothing that I did. It was from the other side of the fence. Matt and I have chatted about it. I said that’s where it ends, a new season is starting. What was said will stay between us.”
It sounds like Priddis put Elliott in his place quite frankly. Priddis is a well respected player across the League, he is one of the games great gentlemen off the field who does a lot of charity work.
He is also one of the games great professional player, a true leader and a player who’s leadership was so needed at Penrith when he arrived and who was one, if not THE clubs leader as they went on to win just the clubs second title in nearly 40 years of existance.
Priddis also sounded very happy to have another of the games great professionals, Petero Civoniceva join the club for this season.
“Having Petero come down, a close friend, that helps me pick up a bit, having another senior player around,”
Penrith have formed a leadership group with players Priddis, Civoniceva, Tony Puletua, Nathan Smith and Tim Grant all part of the group. Penrith have lacked leadership for a long time and its great to see the players looking to actively take on that role.
It seems like there is a real split between the players and the coaching staff and club managment. There were rumblings of it last year up to the point of assistant coach Matt Adamsons extraordinary outburst at the rumblings.
Priddis seemed to have something to say about the split.
“I just think the game has changed so much, you can’t have people upstairs who aren’t involved in the game trying to tell you what’s needed,” he said. “That’s no disrespect to chief executives or anyone else. There’s a lot of ex-players in positions all throughout (the game) that still think they know what’s best for the game.”
Thats just damning.
He went on to say about the clubs new leadership ground, “You talk to all the coaches. Craig Bellamy will tell you in his time in Melbourne the game has changed a whole heap. I think you will find a lot of successful clubs going forward will have these structures (leadership groups) in place. It’s the players who are out there.”
Priddis is contracted through to the end of 2008, with the club having the option to extend his contract an extra season. Don’t expect that to happen though.
Its clear Matthew Elliott wants rid of Priddis, who is still one of the top five hookers in the game today.
When asked about his future Priddis said, “The quicker I can do things the better,”
“It’s not nice sitting at home when you have four kids and a wife and you don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I think I still have something to offer; that showed at the end of last year. Sides are getting younger and younger these days. It’s hard to go out there and play with an average age of 21 or 22. It shows with Petero coming here, the senior players have a big role to play in the game. You still need in your key positions blokes who know what they’re doing.”
Despite all the problems at Penrith, Priddis still has one goal.
“It’s probably the same as last year – I’m expecting to be there on grand final day,” he said. Anything less than that is a failure. You play for mateship, but at the end of the day you play to win. If you’re not playing to win you go and play park football.”
When Luke Priddis signed for Penrith he was just what the club needed. A professional, a leader, someone that had winning experience and who knew what it took to win a Premiership.
When he joined the club, the results were immediate. A highly rated representative player already, he stood out for Penrith and even the games best judges were in praise of his work rate, his effort, the way he led the team and the smart football he played.
He rewarded the club with one of the best individual performances in Grand Final history, scoring one try and setting up two others in a complete performance by a player at the top of his game.
Throughout the good time, and the bad, Luke Priddis has been able to hold his head up high.
For a player of his calibre to be so damning towards the club he plays for says it all. There are major problems at Penrith, so much so that the players themselves feel the need to activly speak out about it.
We all know what changed I feel are needed to be made. We need a new coaching staff and we need a new managment to move the club forward.
If you don’t want to listn to me, thats fine. Listen to the two time Premiership winner, the former test player and the 2003 Clive Churchill medalist.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com