Inside Penrith's amazing new base
The Penrith Panthers now boast one of the most impressive rugby league training facilities in the country, and possibly the world.
This week I was lucky enough to go on a private tour of the brand new, $21 million venue with Panthers boss Phil Gould and premiership legend Brad Fittler for The Footy Show. Current Panthers stars Matt Moylan and James Segeyaro joined in too.
Freddy was blown away before we even got inside. It's built where the old Golf Club used to be, opposite the Leagues Club - he used to work there as a kid… and I use the term 'work' loosely.
"I'd usually be hiding somewhere and sleeping if I'd had a big night. The sheds were great for that – until the bosses found you!"
The sheds don't exist anymore – in their place a modern day structure that stands out for all the right reasons. The Panthers logo on the front is the only giveaway that it's a rugby league facility (and maybe the fields either side) but it wouldn't look out of place in a thriving business district or commercial hub. It's pretty!
Inside the foyer is the name and club number of every single player to ever run on for Penrith. It takes Freddy a while to find his name, and you can tell he's excited. Down the hall the first thing that you see is a huge image of the Provan-Summons trophy, right next to a photo of the 1991 Grand Final winning team celebrating… with Freddy in the thick of it. Gus wanted it to be the first thing every player sees when they walk in and it's pretty powerful.
Speaking of power, the gym is out of this world. It's huge and every weight is engraved with the Penrith Panthers logo. Gus says a lot has changed.
"When I first came to Penrith there were no weights. I took weights out of my gym at home and brought them in for the boys. We have the best sound system available, because obviously the boys can't train without music! The giant message on the wall is 'TRAIN HARD PLAY HARD & NEVER GIVE UP'. That was mine, and I put that one up there first because I'm the boss. The boys can add their own motivation to the wall as time goes on."
The training fields are surrounded by flood lights and multiple HD cameras all linked up to TVs in the gym, all linked up to real time. The trainers all have their own offices where they can analyse vision and plan sessions.
There is a 63-seat theatre where the club can hold team meetings and have video sessions. It's also a place where sponsors can be entertained.
"We will have events in here, behind the scenes. It's great for fans, members, sponsors, corporates to come and learn more about the professional code," Gus says.
Freddy is blown away when we walk into the locker room – it's huge. Gus points out the boot storage units.
Freddy can't believe it.
"Do you find it amazing the amount of boots they have? I had one pair of boots for a season and they lasted!"
Gus says the times have changed. "Footballers have six boots! Some of them are superstitious… some are for kicking, some for training."
Moylan and Segeyaro join us in the locker room and the star fullback is confident it will give the Panthers an edge - and the confidence that they can compete with every other club in the competition.
"I think it's going to bring a lot of excitement to the group," Moylan says.
"The facilities are better than what we have ever had before.
"I think stepping in with that it will bring a lot of confidence and hopefully it pays off on the field as well."
Erin Molan is the host of The Footy Show and a Channel 9 sports reporter and presenter.