The Penrith Panthers have issued an apology to the Warriors and removed a number of social media posts that mocked their beaten rivals. The back-to-back premiers marched into the preliminary final on Saturday after thrashing the Warriors 32-6.
However the actions of the players and the club's social media department have come under fire in the wake of the victory. The Panthers made a number of social media posts with the slogan 'Up the Pahs' - a reference to the Warriors' catch-cry 'Up the Wahs'.
Injured five-eighth Jarome Laui also posted the slogan on his Instagram story, while Stephen Crichton was spotted with his tongue out in the dressing rooms - in what could've been interpreted as a reference to the New Zealand Haka. After immense backlash from Warriors fans on Sunday, the Panthers removed the posts and issued an apology.
“I’ve spoken to the Warriors and issued an apology on behalf of the club,” Panthers CEO Matt Cameron told The Sydney Morning Herald. “We apologise for any offence caused as a result of our post. It has since been taken down.”
Warriors CEO Cameron George said: “They are such a professional club, so to Matty Cameron, Brian Fletcher, to everyone at the club, we don’t take it as disrespect. We’ve moved on. I really appreciate that Matt Cameron made sure to get a hold of me and apologised on behalf of the club that if we’ve taken it disrespectfully, that it wasn’t meant to be that way, and for us it wasn’t taken that way.”
However a number of fans did take it that way. The Panthers were branded "arrogant" and "classless" on social media, which has been a common gripe about Ivan Cleary's all-conquering side across the last few years.
“Penrith already get s*** for perceived arrogance, this is a ham-fisted attempt at leaning into that," one fan wrote on social media. “Against any other club (it) might be fair play, but the Warriors did nothing to provoke this and the game owes them gratitude not (a) piss-take.”
The Warriors famously relocated to Australia during the height of the Covid pandemic to ensure the competition could continue. Players and staff were away from their families for the better part of two years in order to ensure the NRL didn't have to shut down.
This backfired badly for the Panthers. Lots of respect for Cleary and Junior. Lots of good people there. This was disrespectful and classless.
— Hatchet Harry (@karavaninaditch) September 10, 2023
Cue more of Penriths crap of ‘we just get picked on because we are the best’….. nahhhh you just have no class.
— Aaron (@thegypsysoul42) September 10, 2023
I’m not particularly bothered by the Up the Pahs post but to say the Warriors deserved it because they have been arrogant is just wrong.
— Zach (@weetbixwarrior) September 10, 2023
For me, it wasn’t the “up the pahs” that was the most insensitive. It was specifically this part with Crichton obviously mocking Warriors. It’s a trend amongst them. Kikau mocking the Souths song, Koroisau mocking tigers at their GF celebration. Have a bit of grace when you win https://t.co/9ZaS7fspxh
— Hayley (@Hayleyyemma) September 10, 2023
Jarome Luai expected back for preliminary final
Luai, who is expected to be back for the preliminary final, hadn't removed his post at the time of publishing. The five-eighth dislocated his shoulder against Parramatta three weeks ago and appeared destined to miss the remainder of the season.
However the Panthers have confirmed he will be available for the grand final qualifier in two weeks' time. "He (Luai) would 100 per cent play, but we've got to work out if he can function in a game of that intensity but so far, so good," coach Cleary said on Saturday.
Nathan Cleary, who himself missed seven weeks with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, praised Luai for remaining upbeat throughout his own injury layoff. "He tells me he's right every week so I don't know how much to buy into that stuff," Cleary said.
"But that's just who he is, he has confidence and he manifests things. Half the battle's in the mind. He's fighting that battle well. He's always positive, that helps a lot when you're injured. He's in good spirits, he's always keeping that same energy and that means a lot to our team. It's a big part of what we are as a culture."
The Warriors will need to regroup quickly and turn their attention to a semi-final showdown with Newcastle on Saturday. The Knights advanced with a 30-28 victory over the Raiders on Sunday.
NRL Week 2 Finals schedule:
Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters - Friday 7.50pm, AAMI Park
Warriors v Newcastle Knights - Saturday 4.05pm (AEST), Go Media Stadium
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.