No more lonely nights for Panthers

Penrith chief executive Michael Leary will lobby the NRL for more Sunday afternoon games after nearly 17,000 fans turned out at CUA Stadium yesterday to watch the Panthers’ thrilling 38-34 win over local rivals Parramatta.<br><br>Leary told NRL.com today that he was frustrated that previous requests for more day games had been ignored by television networks, despite revelations the Panthers last hosted a Sunday afternoon in Round 18 last year against Newcastle (July 11) – almost 12 months ago.<br><br>Yesterday’s figure of 16,845 was the club’s biggest crowd since Round 1 and well above their home ground season average of 13,707.<br><br>“It’s a difficult situation with TV allocating games five weeks out – we don’t have any say really – but we’ll be making requests,” Leary said.<br><br>“We love our Sunday games out here, for us it’s always a huge benefit to play on a Sunday.<br><br>“Clubs are struggling to attract crowds for various reasons.<br><br>“Night games out west when it gets very, very cold, it’s much easier for people to get off the train, go home and turn on the TV.<br><br>“I haven’t done the stats but I would think that the Sunday crowds would always be bigger than the Friday and Saturday night crowds for teams out here.”<br><br>Leary said it was particularly difficult for locals to make it to CUA Stadium on a Friday night.<br><br>“Friday night is a very difficult night for us out here because we’ve got a lot of people working in the city – when the game starts at 7.30 a lot of them are just getting home,” he said.<br><br>“On Saturday night the problem is the weather.<br><br>“We really need the TV networks on board to generate money into the game so I understand that they have final say… but I’ll keep asking the question.”<br><br>Coach Matthew Elliott said it was time the NRL limited Saturday nights to two games at most with the extra game moved to Sunday afternoon.<br><br>“There are two games at 7.30 on a Saturday – I don’t see why one of them can’t be at 3pm on a Sunday,” he said.<br><br>“I just think there should be more afternoon games in general.<br><br>“The advent of night football was fantastic but it seems to have become the predominant presentation of the game and I know – I don’t think but I know – that it takes away a little bit of the quality of skill.<br><br>“That’s why we train at night before a night game because we have to get used to playing with a slightly dewy ball.<br><br>“I’m a massive fan of daytime footy.” <br><br>Elliott said it was unlikely such an openly attacking game of rugby league – defensive lapses aside – could have been achieved at night and pointed to the performances of Penrith centre Michael Jennings and Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne as prime examples of the benefits of Sunday afternoon rugby league.<br><br>“I really enjoyed the footy, I was surprisingly relaxed,” Elliott said of a game in which the lead changed a phenomenal 12 times.<br><br>“Michael Jennings was unbelievable but if there is a better player in the comp that Jarryd Hayne at the moment I don’t know who it is.<br><br>“He was unbelievable.<br><br>“He is just so dangerous.<br><br>“But would we have seen that score at night? Probably not.”<br><br>Penrith’s win was particularly impressive given their long list of injuries and they are expecting to be weakened further against South Sydney next week with Jennings a State of Origin certainty and Trent Waterhouse also in line for a NSW recall.<br><br>But they are hoping for better news on the injury front in the coming weeks with Adam Woolnough, Geoff Daniela and Michael Gordon all due back soon.<br><br>“We got some good news the other day too on Lachlan Coote and Masada Iosefa that they’re not out for the season now, which is positive,” Elliott said.<br><br>“In Petero’s case we’ve got our fingers crossed because there are a couple of scenarios there – one of them very scary and one that’s quite good.<br><br>“So we haven’t got anyone out for the season, we’ve just got everyone out with little niggles all at once.<br><br>“We need to play well as a team in the interim.”