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  • Stewart Moses

GOLDEN POINTS: Edwards to light up Auckland Nines says Yeo

With Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Peta Hiku unavailable for the Nines, Dylan Edwards, who has been amongst Penrith’s best during pre-season according to Yeo, gets an early opportunity to stake a claim for a NRL wing spot, vacated by the unavailability of Josh Mansour (knee).

“Dylan Edwards has had a phenomenal pre-season and I think he’ll be one to look out for at the Auckland Nines,” Yeo confirmed.

“He’s been outstanding from day one and I’m really excited to see how he goes at this form of the game.”

Meanwhile, both Hiku and Dean Whare are hopeful that they will be right to play in the club’s final trial, against Parramatta.

But should either player fail to play in the trials, it could open up the possibility of Edwards starting on the wing for Penrith’s Round One clash with St George-Illawarra.

There was a very good reason behind the further delay that saw the club only announce its Auckland Nines squad on Monday.

The delay came about after it was discovered that both Ratu Tuisese and Viliame Kikau had visa/ passport issues that, despite the best efforts from both the club and the NRL, were unable to be resolved in time for the Fijian duo to take their place in the squad.

Whilst on the Auckland Nines, there are concerns that the Nines tournament could be at risk in 2018 given that players are required to have a seven week stand-down period after the Rugby League World Cup due to a clause in the current collective bargaining agreement, which could see many top players blocked from taking part.

Panthers RL CEO, Brian Fletcher also weighed into the Nines debate suggesting that the tournament should be scrapped altogether given the associated injury-risk involved and the lack of compensation clubs receive, telling News Corp media that he would prefer to see clubs play only trials instead.

Plenty of Panther fans could have been excused for seeing double when Sione Katoa was named in the Cronulla Sharks Nines squad.

But alas, it was Sione Katoa, the Holden Cup winger and not the hooker / lock who was named in Penrith's squad.

How's this for an ex-Panthers Nines squad based on those former players picked to play in this year’s series:

Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Joseph Paulo, Tim Glasby, ElijahTaylor, Matt Eisenhuth, Kevin Naiqama, Robert and George Jennings, Braidon Burns, Anthony Cherrington, Blake Austin, Eddie Aiono, Brent Naden, Suaia Matagi, James Roberts and Leivaha Pulu.

Suaia Matagi

The Panthers will be keeping up appearances when players not involved with the Auckland Nines will travel west this Thursday and Friday conducting junior league clinics and participating in educational sessions with students to regional centres and towns including Bathurst, Parkes and Orange, as part of the NRL’s Community Carnival.

Penrith will then conduct a similar schools blitz in the local area on February 20.

One-time Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has been appointed as the new head coach of the Lebanon national team at this year’s Rugby League World Cup.

Cleary, who has been out of a head coaching role since his dismissal at the end of the 2015 season, says that the opportunity to guide a developing nation to this year’s Rugby League World Cup was one that he was eager to take up.

“I was privileged to have been involved in the previous Rugby League World Cup with the New Zealand squad, so to now have the opportunity to be the head coach of a developing nation such as Lebanon is something that I’m really excited about,” Cleary said.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Lebanon team and the Rugby League World Cup tournament is a great chance to showcase the great talent that the nation has to offer.”

It will be interesting to see whether the appointment will entice eligible NRL players, including our own Josh Mansour.

It’s been too long to remember but two betting agencies, TAB and SportsBet, have Penrith joint favourites to win the 2017 NRL Premiership at $8.00 alongside Melbourne and North Queensland.

Draws for SG Ball and Harold Matthews have been released along with the newly formed Tarsha Gale Cup (under 18’s) which together will be played as a triple-header each week.

Round One kicks off on Saturday February 11 when Penrith takes on Wests in both SG Ball and Harold Matthews at Hillier Oval while the women take on Wests Tigers.

As reported last edition, both Broncos halfback, Ben Hunt and Newcastle Knights prop Korbin Sims both finalised their futures.

Hunt confirmed he will head south in 2018 to take up a massive five-year deal plus one-year option to play for St George-Illawarra while Sims took a reported pay cut to immediately head north to Brisbane.

The moves allow the Knights to step up their interest in former Panther, Chris Grevsmuhl, who has reportedly also attracted interest from former club, North Queensland.

The future of Bradford Bulls took a dramatic twist, with the new owners sensationally parting ways with former Panthers lower-grades coaching staffer, Rohan Smith and replacing him with Geoff Toovey.

The official statement said that the new owners and Smith agreed to part ways but the swiftness of Toovey’s appointment just days later suggest that Smith’s days were numbered regardless of whether they were on the same page or not.

Smith’s treatment is even more appalling when you consider the coach was in limbo, having not been paid wages since November, despite working hard to keeping his staff together during the difficult administration period.

And finally congratulations to Tyrone Peachey and Kelly, who welcomed into the world baby daughter, Penelope, last Wednesday.

See you at the game. #PantherPride.

#IsaahYeo #DylanEdwards #NRL #NRLAKL9s #RugbyLeague #PenrithPanthers #BrianFletcher #PetaHiku #JoshMansour #DeanWhare #ViliameKikau #RatuTuisese

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