As a Penrith Panthers fan I have mixed emotions around the announcement that Tim Grant has requested and been granted a release to play for the South Sydney Rabbitohs from 2015 onwards.
Grant has been an outstanding clubman, a local junior, a fan favourite and a decent bloke.
My understanding from various people within the Panthers club is that this situation goes back some 18 months, when a rift between Grant and the coaching staff began.
In 2013 an ex Panthers club legend confirmed to me that there had been issues between Grant and a couple of the coaching staff which were being worked through at the time.
In the 2013 season it became even clearer that Grant was falling further out of favour at the club and was being banished to the bench for games, especially in the second half of the season.
After the season concluded, in late 2013 Grant joined new recruit Jamie Soward and Ivan Cleary on the Kokoda trek. This was an attempt to try and help repair the rift between Grant and Cleary by giving them some time to bond and sort out any issues.
It’s apparent that this rift still remained which led to the club allowing Grant in early 2014 to entertain offers on the open market. Initially a couple of clubs had interest but it was after meeting with Shane Richardson at Souths (ex Penrith) that a deal with Souths seemed like it was on the cards.
Speculation was rife on twitter about Grant leaving immediately which was denied by the club. There was a lot of “hope” that Tim would see out his contract and play many more games for the Panthers.
To me this was a case of Penrith making sure any fallout from Grant leaving would be all on Grants shoulders. They made it look like they wanted him to stay when this wasn’t the case. If he wanted out, any blame would be on his head alone.
Also complicating any immediate release was the fact that Penrith was to play Souths the following week and it would have been a bad look for the club if Grant had announced any deal with a club he was playing against in the coming weeks.
There was also uncertainty in the free agent market at the time with Andrew Fifita’s deal falling through at Canterbury, as this would have delayed any deal as the free agent market would have had teams putting on hold any new signings in the hope of snaring the Sharks star.
The situation has finally come to a head with the club granting a release from the remaining part of his contract and Grant signing a deal with the Rabbitohs to replace Sam Burgess from 2015.
Tim Grant is an Origin calibre player and having seen him play over the past few years it’s been clear that like Michael Jennings, new surroundings will do him the world of good.
I do believe that at his best he may once again wear the sky blue jersey of NSW and if he does I’ll be there to cheer him on.
It’s just a shame that he won’t be representing the Panthers whilst doing this.
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