The Slow Death Of The Penrith Panthers

I wasn’t going to write this.

This web site has always been one that a general fan of the game can come to a feel like they will get a taste of all the flavors our game has to offer. I might be a Panthers fan, but you don’t come to this site and get punched in the face by Panthers centric article.

So I wasn’t going to write this. Not just a couple of weeks after my last article about Penrith.

Then I realized, there are not many places Panthers fans can have their say. We have a quiet fan base, one that rarely gets to have a say.

That is why you are reading this.

After yet another massive loss at home in front of a small crowd, many of whom were heading for the gates with 20 minutes remaining, the media is finally starting to ask questions about Matthew Elliotts job.

It wasn’t just the 44-12 loss to the Cronulla Sharks that did it. Sure the Sharks have struggled to score points over the last few years, but hey, they have shown some form this year. It was the manner of the loss.

The players can give all the support to Matthew Elliott they want, but the fact is, they look completely disinterested. They look like a playing group that is waiting for the axe to fall on their coach. They know there will be a new beginning, and until then, they are just killing time.

Players who have always put in for Penrith, through thick and thin, have checked out.

Trent Waterhouse looks like he couldn’t give a stuff. Luke Lewis is a shadow of the everywhere man we are used to seeing. Michael Jennings shows flashes of brilliance, but mostly a casual indifference. I even think you can see Petero Civoniceva wondering if its worth putting himself through the brutality of this game for such terrible results.

The only players over the first three rounds that looks like he hasn’t switched off is Michael Gordon, and I’ve got a feeling that he is just wired a certain way. Throw him on the wing, in the centers, at fullback, its going to be a 100% effort every time. We’re lucky to have him.

I can’t blame the players any more. They have a heap of talent, I think talent wise the Panthers are a lock as a top 8 team. As fans we watch this side and we know, the coaching isn’t there, the game plans aren’t there, even the fitness training isn’t there. We’re fans….the players do this as a profession. They know what they are not getting, and after trying to work through it for so many years, you can’t blame them for just giving up. They are fighting a losing battle.

As fans, we gave up a long time ago. Our crowds are terrible and getting worse. Talk to a Panthers fan about their team, you get no excitement, just resignation and these days, indifference. We’ve cared about what is going on for so long that it hurts. It’s easier to just not care any more.

Penrith have two great strengths. We have the biggest junior Rugby League base in the world and the backing of 14 licensed clubs across New South Wales.

With over 9,000 juniors registered in the Penrith district, and a very multicultural district, Penrith has more junior players than most states and even most countries! Yet over the last two years we have seen just one of those juniors debut for the club. Just one.

That is a disgrace.

With the backing of 14 liceneced Leagues clubs, the Panthers are said to be asset rich but cash poor. Basically, the Panthers group own a lot of places that aren’t making money. This of course comes back to bad management, and the people that run the Leagues club side of the business are the same people that run the football club.

Last week the Panthers called in coach Matthew Elliott and gave him 8 weeks to turn things around. The last time an ultimatum like that was given to Matthew Elliott, he had his contract extended by three years within a month of the ultimatum of ten weeks being given.

At the time, Penrith had a losing record.

As a management group, the Penrith Panthers hitched their wagon to the Matthew Elliott express. They have invested in his philosophy totally. They have signed off on him bringing in his friends at every level, from assistant coaches, to players to trainers, this is a Matthew Elliott football club from top to bottom.

In becoming part of this group, the Penrith Panthers management has become part of the failure.

The Penrith Panthers are struggling on the field. They are struggling off the field. This isn’t a problem in any one area, the entire club is rotten and needs a complete clean out.

I don’t watch Penrith games for enjoyment any more. I enjoy watching other teams play, but not my Panthers. Every time they win it just delays the clean out the club needs. Every time they lose, excuses are made and no one is accountable.

For a club that should be right out there in front of everyone else with the Brisbane Broncos, a rich club, so many juniors and no other professional sporting team within 40 kilometers to compete with, Penrith should be a juggernaut. It should be an embarrassment of riches.

That is far from what we are seeing though. For all the raw resources that Penrith have at their disposal, they still remain one of the least successful clubs in the National Rugby League.

Over the next two months, the terrible management at the Panthers hope to learn something about Matthew Elliott that they apparently haven’t been able to work out since his appointment in 2007.

Show they sack Elliott, I have no doubt the club will aim low in their search for a replacement. As named like Wayne Bennett, Phil Gould, Ricky Stuart and Michael Maguire make the rounds, I would not be surprised at all if the club went with Steve Georgallis, Matthew Elliotts assistant coach.

Until Penrith can get a top class coach that can change the culture of the club and turn things around, Panthers fans will be left to attend games, no in support, but in mourning, for what we have lost.

Our club.

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