Injured RCG sets sights on NRL finals, new Panthers contract
An admittedly "sour" Reagan Campbell-Gillard has turned his attention to Penrith's finals run after a broken jaw shattered his State of Origin dream, with a long-term extension being sized up during his time on the sidelines.
Campbell-Gillard joined his Blues teammates in camp on Thursday with 10 screws and two plates in his jaw from surgery earlier in the week, the result of a shot from Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves that has ruled him out for at least the next six weeks and the remainder of his debut NSW campaign.
While already contracted until the end of 2019, Campbell-Gillard's impressive rise to a World Cup triumph and NSW honours in the last 12 months has Penrith moving to keep him at the foot of the mountains.
Club officials are confident of locking Campbell-Gillard in as their long-term front-row leader, with extension talks to continue with his management over the next month as he targets a round 20 return.
"If he went to market, every club in Sydney would want him," Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher told NRL.com.
"We've developed him and we've just got to make sure we come up with a suitable contract to have him here as a long-term player."
Campbell-Gillard will be on a liquid diet for the next few weeks but is determined to return for Penrith at his standard 113kg playing weight.
His injury is a cruel blow given the Blues' chance to wrap up the series at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, with coach Brad Fittler bringing the Panthers enforcer back into the NSW fold for the lead-up to game two.
"Freddy gave me a call and it's a no-brainer," Campbell-Gillard said.
"It's good to get out of the house and get around the boys again. It felt like day one again, getting that phone call to come into camp.
"Obviously, I'm on the other side of the fence, which sucks no doubt. But it's still good to be back around the team and be a part of it again.
"It sucks, I'm not going to sugar coat it, but I've got to live with it. I'm a bit sour at the moment but there's nothing to do but move on and clear my head.
"Origin isn't on the cards anymore so I'm focusing on Penrith. It's just about healing up and trying to keep my body in good shape and trying to get my head and body right for the back end of the season for Penrith because there's definitely big things going on out there this year".
While Campbell-Gillard's signature is the priority in the Panthers engine room, the club has also quietly retained a couple of their next generation up front as well.
NRL.com understands that big man Jack Hetherington inked a one-year extension (until the end of 2019) earlier this season.
Hetherington – the son of former Canberra forward Brett Hetherington who also counts rugby league greats Brett and Bill Mullins in his family tree – has impressed in six NRL games since debuting against Cronulla in April and is well and truly in Penrith's long-term plans.
So too is former Cowboys prop Nick Lui-Toso, who this week extended until the end of 2020 after first arriving from North Queensland 18 months ago.
Penrith's forward pack has been hit by injuries to Campbell-Gillard and Sam McKendry (ACL rupture) and the premature retirements of Peter Wallace and Tim Browne, though big men Viliame Kikau (knee) and Moses Leota (pectoral) are expected back for next week's clash with Manly.
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