Community struggles inspiring Panthers

·2-min read

With their friends and family locked down since July due to Sydney's COVID outbreak, Sunday's NRL grand final against South Sydney offers a chance for Penrith to provide some much needed joy to their community.

The Panthers are a club built on their links to Penrith and surrounding suburbs.

Three of their biggest stars - Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai and Brian To'o - are local juniors who've come through the ranks to the game's biggest stage.

Others such as Moses Leota, Tyrone May and Spencer Leniu also grew up in the region or came through the NRL club's junior ranks.

Keeping their NRL premiership dream on track while living away from home and loved ones doing it tough at a Sunshine Coast resort has been both inspiring and challenging for players like Crichton.

"It gets me teary every game and especially these finals games that we've been winning. My family FaceTime me every time after the game and they're just crying," Crichton told AAP.

"They miss me and stuff like that but yeah definitely miss them and all the boys back home and it's definitely why we want to win as well.

"Our community back at home that's really doing it tough, our members and things like that we definitely want to do it for them as well."

It's an inspiration similar to that used by Melbourne on their way to last year's premiership.

With Victoria in lockdown, the Storm based themselves on Queensland's Sunshine Coast but played their games with a V on their jerseys.

"Everyone back home in Victoria. This one's for you," captain Cameron Smith said as he lifted the Provan-Summons Trophy following the Storm's 26-20 triumph over the Panthers.

Five-eighth Luai said being a source of pride for the team's local community was a key part of coach Ivan Cleary's ethos.

"Coach put us all on the theme that he wanted our team to be a source of the community's sense of pride," Luai said.

"I know our community loves footy. They love us boys as well.

"A lot of us come from Mt Druitt which is a part of the area they're doing it tough out there, and we just let them know they're always in our hearts and we're doing it for those guys back there."

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