A former player turned commentator said it was a “challenging” question to answer when asked whether the Penrith Panthers were “really bad winners” following growing anger over the team’s “lack of class” in post-premiership celebrations.
Former rugby league great Michael Ennis was torn when questioned whether Penrith Panthers were “really bad winners” as the club faces heat from rival fans and even some of its own supporters in their controversial post-premiership celebrations.
The Panthers demolished the Parramatta Eels 28-12 on Sunday night to go back-to-back titles in a largely one-sided decider dominated by Penrith.
But it has been their antics after the game that has now overshadowed their victory, with players from the winning team described as “lacking class” when it came to their “tasteless” celebrations with fans the day after the NRL Grand Final.
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A meet and greet with thousands of fans at BlueBet Stadium in Penrith, west of Sydney, saw star forward James Fisher-Harris describe the Eels as their “sons” in a repeat of a jab from earlier in the week and described his squad as the “greatest Penrith team ever”.
“I just want to say, Parra are our sons. Right here, right now, that’s just a fact,” the 26-year-old could be seen saying in a video posted to social media on Monday.
The crowd then chanted “We hate Parra” repeatedly, with a number of players seen clapping and cheering on the fans before the camera panned away.
‘We hate Parra!’
Story: https://t.co/VCBJwBCbGv@FatimaKdouh_ pic.twitter.com/mZkFNgOvG2
Hooker Api Korisau also came under fire at the event when he joked about emulating the same results at West Tigers, where he is moving to in 2023 on a two-year deal.
While Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai rubbed salt into the wounds of Parramatta when he doubled down on comments prior to the decider that Penrith is the “Daddy” of the two fierce rival Western Sydney NRL clubs.
The father-of-three shared a photo to Instagram Stories with a cigar hanging from his mouth alongside the Provan-Summons trophy and the caption, “Daddy loves you”.
Ennis was posed by Sky News Australia’s AM Agenda host Laura Jayes on Tuesday whether he thought the Panthers were “really bad winners”.
The former Cronulla Sharks star, who was part of the 2016 premiership-winning team, and previously described as “one of the most hated players” in the sport, said it was a “challenging” question to answer.
He recognised the club was in an era where it was dominating the sport with two titles from three Grand Final appearances, but the assistant Parramatta coach believes Panthers players will get pulled in about their behaviour.
“They’ve been tremendous as a footy side but no doubt there’s probably been a few moments in the last couple of days … some people at the club will grab some individuals and say, ‘look, we can probably do it better next time’,” Ennis said.
The Fox Sports commentator also defended Penrith and argued they likely felt “safe” at their own stadium and simply wanted to celebrate with their fans.
“Obviously, out at their fan day, the boys had an enormous night of celebrations after the game and felt like they were in a safe environment I suppose at their stadium with their fans and have probably said some things they might not have said in different circumstances,” he added.
Jayes then posed whether it is important to be gracious winners as the nature of the competitive sport could see teams suddenly fall from grace.
“No doubt about it,” Ennis said.
“You’ve only got to go back a few seasons ago and Penrith went through that rebuilding phase and have done a tremendous job to get to where they have, and they’ve got great youth coming through in their development (teams) and pathways.”
The Parramatta coaching consultant then praised his side for their efforts and believes the squad will learn a lot from their first decider appearance since 2009.
“It’s always an enormous hollow feeling when you’ve worked so hard for such a long period of time, dating back to last November where they set their sights on getting for that final day and you get there – and you fall short,” he said.
“But through that you learn a lot of experiences, things you’d do differently next time, how you handle the week and preparation and most importantly what goes into the 80 minutes and look, for the opening 10 or so minutes they were physical and bruising in the way they wanted to start.
“But once Penrith got on top, they are just a juggernaut, they are so fit and so athletic.
“Full credit to them, they executed in particular the first half superbly and completely suffocated Parramatta.”
Ennis believes there will be enough club and NRL support for Penrith stars who will likely be feeling the heat from rival fans and even some of their own supporters.
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