Rugby League

NRL grand final speech Panthers didn’t like

Penrith stars reportedly didn’t like a speech from their own chairman in the lead-up to the 2020 NRL Grand Final.

In a report which claims the position of Panthers boss Dave O’Neill is under threat, players reportedly thought their chairman overstepped the mark by addressing them with an impassioned speech before their loss to the Melbourne Storm.

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A report from rugby league reported Danny Weidler in The Sun-Herald claims O’Neill is on the nose with some sections of the Panthers dressing room.

The divide was reportedly evident when O’Neill went out of his way to address the players following their final captain’s run training session the day before the decider.

The report outlines suggestions O’Neill is making moves to establish himself as a “godfather” figure at the Panthers, trying to emulate Roosters supremo Nick Politis.

Panthers players have reportedly referred to O’Neill as “Uncle Dave” in a joking reference to O’Neill’s supposed ambition to replicate the relationship “Uncle Nick” has with the Roosters’ playing group.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.Source:Getty Images

It came to the surface during O’Neill’s impassioned speech to the players the day before the grand final when the playing group had already listened to two speeches.

“It made us cringe,” one player said, according to the report.

“It was all this gladiatorial stuff about who we are representing. We know all of that. We know we play for the Penrith community and we are proud of that and don’t need reminding. We saw him walking up to us and were wondering what is going on here. The boys didn’t know what the point of it was.”

It is another black mark on the Panthers’ grand final week, which included centre Brent Naden’s provisional suspension after recording a positive test for a recreational drug.

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Naden was tested by Sport Integrity Australia following the NRL Grand Final on October 25 and returned a positive A-sample for metabolites of cocaine.

The club was also fined $10,000 after fans breached COVID-19 safety protocols during the NRL Grand Final.

Patrons at the Penrith Panthers League Club were spotted mingling and drinking while standing, which was banned under strict NSW liquor licencing laws.

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