Penrith Panthers boss hits back over 'defamatory' claims from Gorden Tallis

The Brisbane Broncos legend's comments have gone down like a lead balloon at the foot of the mountains.

Gorden Tallis, pictured here alongside Penrith Panthers players.
Gorden Tallis questioned whether the Penrith Panthers were under the salary cap. Image: Getty

Penrith Panthers CEO Bryan Fletcher has fired back at 'defamatory' suggestions from Gorden Tallis that the back-to-back premiers have been cheating the salary cap. Tallis made the explosive comments on NRL 360 last week in relation to the controversy surrounding the Melbourne Storm's decision to celebrate their stripped trophies from the 2007 and 2009 seasons.

The Storm paraded replica trophies in front of their home fans during a celebration of their 25 years in the NRL, a move that was widely slammed due to the fact those premierships were later stripped due to systemic salary cap cheating. But Tallis made extraordinary suggestions that all teams who win the premiership cheat the salary cap in some way.

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“How many teams have won the grand final in the last five years and been under (the cap)?” Tallis asked. "Can you win the NRL without cheating the salary cap? I think the fans when they see Penrith run out and you look at the talent they've got and you are supporting the Wests Tigers ... you go, 'I don't think we can beat them'. If the salary cap is fair, the talent should be fair, shouldn't it?"

Tallis admitted he didn't have any proof but went on to defend the Storm. “Listen, Melbourne Storm won, unless you’re a Storm fan I reckon you’re shitty, but they won those trophies. In my mind, as a footy fan, they’ve got a right to put them there,” he said.

The Panthers are two-time defending champions having won back-to-back premierships in 2021 and 2022. Needless to say, Tallis' comments haven't gone down well at the foot of the mountains.

"The truth is they are actually defamatory," Fletcher told the The Sydney Morning Herald. "To imply that this club is cheating the cap is an insult to the people at this club who work in cap management, roster management, recruitment and coaching. It's an insult to our players as well who won the comps fair and square, and they don't deserve to have a shadow cast over their name."

The Penrith Panthers, pictured here after the 2022 NRL grand final.
The Penrith Panthers have won back-to-back NRL premierships. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Penrith Panthers have fallen victim to salary cap squeeze

Fletcher also pointed out that the Panthers were paying a big chunk of Regan Campbell-Gillard and Waqa Blake's contracts in 2021 after they moved to Parramatta. The Panthers have fallen victim to their own success in the last two years, with a number of players forced to sign with rival clubs due to salary cap pressures.

Api Koroisau is now at the Wests Tigers, Viliame Kikau and Matt Burton are at the Bulldogs and Stephen Crichton will join them at Canterbury next year. Spencer Leniu is joining the Roosters next year, while Jarome Luai is facing a potential pay cut if he wants to stay at Penrith. The Panthers recently re-signed second-rower Liam Martin, while fullback Dylan Edwards has reportedly agreed to re-sign on $950,000 per season.

It means Luai might also be forced to look elsewhere if he wants a potential $1 million-per-season payday. “I want him to stay here, he wants to stay,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said last month. “But it is a little bit tricky because if...he’s leaving his management, there’s a period where you can’t actually do anything.

“But he knows what we think of him, and I know how much he loves the place. He’s part of our team, he’s a local boy. It’s not just how he plays, it is how he connects our team and we definitely want him here long-term.”

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