Double booking splits Panthers

RUGBY League fans in two locations are starting to wonder how strong the Penrith team will be when the club splits its playing roster to fulfil commitments on February 14.

The Panthers are booked to play an NRL trial with South Sydney at BCU International Stadium and on the same day are scheduled to face Parramatta, 1054.7km further south at Exies Oval, Griffith.

And while interested parties in both places are scratching their heads at how such a situation occurred, Penrith media manager Andrew Farrell confirmed the project will take some juggling.

“I'm still trying to get my head around it but I'm confident we'll have no problem putting a team into both towns,” he said.

“We have a very big roster this season and we'll split them in half and decide who goes where.

“Of course, certain key players won't take the field but we'll also roster them to go to both centres, to do things like run the water bottle or do promotional work.”

Farrell revealed his club's main trial was at CUA Stadium one week later on February 21 - also involving Parramatta - and part of the agreement with the Eels was having recognised first graders on the field at Griffith.

When asked which match head coach Matthew Elliott would be attending, Farrell replied: “At this stage, I think it would be Coffs Harbour, that game seems to be the main focus.”

Meanwhile in Griffith, rugby league commentator Scott Hazlewood is certain all of his local contacts will now be busting themselves to ask the same question.

“And I expect Penrith will tell us Matt Elliott will be coming here and not to Coffs,” he said.

“A lot of people want to know if recognisable players are going to be announced after there was much dissatisfaction when the Eels played Melbourne Storm here in 2006 and a bunch of kids nobody had heard of turned up to play.”

Management of Griffith Ex-Servicemen's Club who will host the game have already sought assurances that both clubs would bring top line players.

“Now we know Penrith will be forced to spread resources there's reason to doubt the quality of players taking part and it will be interesting to see what teams are announced for both Coffs and Griffith as the games draw closer,” Hazlewood added.

A spokesperson admitted Coffs Harbour City Council did not know Penrith were contracted to separate February 14 appearances until contacted for comment by the Coffs Coast Advocate.

“We then placed a call to the Panthers and football manager Mark Andrews said the club was sending Premier League and Under 20's players to Griffith,” she advised.

“He also said first graders such as Frank Pritchard, Trent Waterhouse and Jarrod Sammut would be coming to Coffs Harbour but wasn't sure if they would actually be playing.

“We are still confident Penrith will be a competitive side.”

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