Packer on verge of finalising $300,000 compensation pay-out

This is the untold detail of the Russell Packer redemption story.

A story of how, through a second chance provided to him by rugby league, Packer is now on the verge of paying the final instalments of close to $300,000 in compensation and legal fees to his assault victim from 2013.

In the coming weeks, the Wests Tigers co-captain will make good on the financial debt required to be paid - doing so in just over three years after serving a 12-month jail sentence.

Coincidentally, it comes in the week Packer will square off against Brisbane Broncos prop Matt Lodge at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Friday night, providing his much-maligned opposite number with a walking example of what it takes to travel down the road to redemption.

It is understood the Wests Tigers have been working closely with Packer to draw an end to the saga, and the faith shown by the club has been reciprocated in effort and passion from the Kiwi prop in an incredible opening fortnight to the season.

The St George Illawarra Dragons deserve a huge chunk of recognition for assisting in the rehabilitation of the reformed forward, who is back playing under his decade-long mentor, Ivan Cleary.

Those closest to Packer believe the heartache and shame of that drunken night in November, 2013 has saved him from a life of unrealised potential.

Tigers captain Russell Packer leads celebrations after beating the Storm.
Tigers captain Russell Packer leads celebrations after beating the Storm. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

But those who don’t know him sometimes find it hard to ignore his past, which is why Cleary needed to convince the board they weren’t agreeing to a liability in rubber-stamping Packer’s four-year deal with the club last year.

"I was really nervous about it, and Russell knows that," chairwoman Marina Go told NRL.com.

"It wasn’t without a lot of questioning. We don’t usually talk about what goes on in a board meeting, but I think most people would expect I questioned it when Ivan came to the board and tried to convince us. I wasn’t alone questioning it. But you have to trust your coach, don’t you?

"I come from a culture that whatever I have done in business, trusting the people I work with. I think if you don’t trust the people you empower to execute and get on with the job, then they shouldn’t be in the job.

"Ivan knew coming in what the non-negotiables were for us around values and culture. Not only did he sign up to them, he was really strong on them as well. We had a complete match on that, so we had to believe then that he wouldn’t bring someone into our club that would do anything to bring our club into disrepute. That for us was the non-negotiable."

So Cleary stood up in front of the board at Wests Ashfield Leagues Club, just a couple of months after starting his tenure at the joint venture, and painted a picture of Packer those in the room hadn’t seen.

"He said ‘Russell will own what he did. He will stand up and own the fact that what he did was unforgivable’," Go recalled.

"But he’s a completely different person now. He’s really sorry about it. He will never be that man again. He’s done everything he can to be a completely different man. Ivan stood there and said ‘I personally vouch that he’s a completely changed man’. He doesn’t drink. He’s a father. He’s got a very strong partner and he’s a really good family man. And I see that now. He is a good man. He wants to make a difference."

Tigers prop Russell Packer.
Tigers prop Russell Packer. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Go is now one of Packer’s biggest supporters, taking a keen interest in his life as he justifies the faith shown in him by the club.

She sees the work he puts in off the field trying to get his life back in order. She sees what Packer now stands for, and the similarities his personal values have with the club’s values.

Go did not meet Packer before the club signed him, but last off-season she received a phone call from the prop out of the blue.

He had finished the first year of a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Wollongong, but given his move from the Dragons to the Tigers, he was hoping to transfer to the University of NSW.

Packer knew that’s where Go studied, so he asked for her help.

"He said: 'I know that you can’t give me a character letter, because you don’t know me, but can you write me a letter of support from the club saying that the club will support me in doing my MBA to make sure I have time or at least the support of the club to do it?'," Go recalled.

"I said: ‘absolutely’. We had a really great conversation. I remember getting off the phone and thinking ‘wow, this is not who I thought he would be’. We have a very good relationship. Every time I see him, he’s an extremely respectful man. He always comes up to me and makes a beeline for me to say hello to me.

"I think he’s a very good role model for the guys coming through because it’s still a bit of a novelty in rugby league to have a female as a chair. I think still some of the young guys don’t know how to deal with me but he’s a very solid leader. I can’t say enough about him.”

Ivan Cleary with Russell Packer after the Wests Tigers' upset win over Melbourne.
Ivan Cleary with Russell Packer after the Wests Tigers' upset win over Melbourne. ©NRL Photos

Health scares for Bunnies coaches

Two of the coaches from the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ feeder club, North Sydney Bears, both had major health scares in the opening weekend of the season.

Shane Millard, the head coach of the Intrust Super Premiership team, had an allergic reaction to prescribed medicine and had to be taken to hospital.

In the same week the club’s under 20s coach, Willie Leyshon, suffered a heart attack. The pair are back training but it was a major scare in quick succession for the club.

Dogs want to collar Cogger early

Knights playmaker Jack Cogger.
Knights playmaker Jack Cogger. ©NRL Photos

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs haven’t given up hope of luring Jack Cogger from the Newcastle Knights before the June 30 mid-season transfer deadline.

Canterbury, who dropped Matt Frawley and promoted Jeremy Marshall-King to partner Kieran Foran in the halves against the Penrith Panthers on Friday, are hopeful of bringing Cogger to the club earlier than his expected arrival in 2019, however Newcastle still see no reason to release him.

The Knights have no salary cap pressure and there’s no harm in having additional depth up their sleeve, even if they do have Brock Lamb as cover for Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson.

From all reports Cogger isn’t kicking stones and is enjoying his time in the Hunter, but should an opportunity present itself in the coming months, the Dogs will pounce.

Clubs keen to sieze on Sezer

There are also a couple of clubs keeping a close eye on the events unfolding in the nation’s capital in relation to Aidan Sezer.

The Canberra Raiders playmaker has started from the bench in the opening two weeks of the Telstra Premiership.

There’s a feeling among rival clubs that the Raiders may shed players to ease salary cap pressure, and if that’s the case look for a few to show interest in signing Sezer.

Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer.
Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer. ©Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos

Reynolds fires up Tigers

Josh Reynolds wasn’t playing last week but he played a significant role in helping his Wests Tigers to victory against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

Reynolds is injured with a hamstring injury but asked coach Ivan Cleary if he could make the trip to Melbourne to support his teammates.

He was tasked with the responsibility of firing up the troops and filling them with confidence. Whatever he is saying, it’s working.

The recent success of the club may not help his cause of returning to the starting side when he is fit, but he is not the sort of person who will put his own needs ahead of the team.

Ivan Cleary has a huge decision to make when Reynolds is available, but if he asks him to start from the bench, don’t expect Reynolds to be unhappy.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the ARLC, NRL, NRL clubs or State associations.