The history of Panthers Penrith
From the first steps taken on Penrith soil by Captain Watkin Tench of the Royal Marines back in 1789, the spirit of adventure, excitement and teamwork has been present in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The earliest reports of Rugby League games began to emerge in newspapers around 1908, and in 1912 the then Glenbrook Rovers took on the combined team of ‘Penrith and Emus’ at the Penrith Showground. The local community rallied behind the event just like they do today when the Penrith Panthers NRL team take the field at Panthers stadium.
A modest beginning
The first Penrith licensed club was located in Station Street, Penrith. The Penrith Rugby League Club as it was known then, predominantly served as a ‘young mens club’ with some of the funds used to teach the boys sporting pursuits such as football, boxing and gymnastics. In 1956 the first Panthers Club was built on Station Street using volunteer labour and the club was later granted a liquor licence and six poker machines. The club featured two rooms and a hall for Saturday night dances and special occasions and functions.
Building the basics
The 1970s – 80s bought with it ‘the boom’. The boom affected Penrith very much during the 1970s and some of the most significant growth in the region happened during this important decade. Panthers, a mainstay of the community for twenty years at that stage, wanted to make sure that the growing community could enjoy the club as the membership expanded. Nobby Hunter had the honour of breaking the soil for the foundations of the second Club and over the next few years Panthers began to take shape. In the same decade, the first Holden Commodore was introduced (1978) and would have been seen parked on the streets of Penrith for the first State of Origin in 1980 and later filling the parking lot at Panthers World of Entertainment, which opened on our current site in Mulgoa Road in 1984.
DID YOU KNOW? The land that houses the current club on Mulgoa Road was purchased in 1971. It was to be thirteen years before the club would open it’s doors on the land. After a lengthy council opposition and muddied waters, literally, the land was thought by most as a mud filled swampland and could not see the vision.
Our new home
The Penrith Rugby League Club was reborn, rebuilt and relocated in 1984. This started a new phase on Mulgoa Road as ‘Panthers’. Employee numbers tripled and revenue quadrupled. Towards the end of the decade an Australian first man made water-park, known today as Cables Wake Park, was established.
Moving on up
Throughout the decade Panthers established itself as one of Australia’s premier licensed clubs. It transformed itself into an entertainment palace with over 850 staff.
The Penrith Panthers football team appeared in their maiden NRL Grand Final in 1990. A year later, in 1991, the Penrith Panthers won their first ever Grand Final, led by Greg (Brandy) Alexander and coached by Phil (Gus) Gould.
With the above success, the leagues club turnover achieve an astonishing $65 million in revenue. With renewed emphasis on management and future planning, the clubs growth was on the rise.
In 1997, the EVAN Theatre was opened. The EVAN Theatre attracted acts such as Cold Chisel, INXS, Midnight Oil, Rose Tattoo and John Farnham to name a few.
Entertainment Palace and growing
The new millennium saw the amalgamation of 13 clubs. This made Panthers the largest club group in NSW. Products included first rate live entertainment, a business and exhibition centre, restaurants, bars and adrenalin seeking outdoor and indoor activities.
Team of Legends: On 4 October 2006, Penrith Panthers announced a ‘Team of Legends’ – 17 players chosen as the all-time best in 40 years of competition in the top grade of Rugby League. The Team of Legends was chosen by a committee of experts and each of them have played a significant role in making the club what it is today.
|1. Rhys Wesser
2. Bob Landers
3. Grahame Moran
4. Ryan Girdler
5. Alan McIndoe
6. Brad Fittler
|7. Greg Alexander
8. Terry Geary
9. Royce Simmons
10. Tim Sheens
11. John Cartwright
12. Bill Ashurst
|13. Colin Van Der Voort
14. Craig Gower
15. Brad Izzard
16. Mark Geyer
17. Tony Puletua
In 2014 Dom’s Cocktail Lounge Bar was opened.
In 2015 an $800,000 million development was completed. It saw the arrival of an ‘Eat Street’ featuring Zen Noodle Bar, Panarotti’s Pizza Pasta, Osso’s Steak and Ribs and Hanks Seafood (now CJs Crab Shack & Grill). In addition, Squires Terrace Bar was created, Mercure Hotel came onboard and iFLY Indoor Skydiving was created.
Panthers turned 50!
Hall of Fame: On Saturday 25 June 2016 Penrith Panthers released their Hall of Fame inductees. Grahame Moran, Royce Simmons, Greg Alexander and Craig Gower have been revealed as the inaugural inductees to the Panthers Hall of Fame. The selection of the four Panthers greats was announced at the club’s 50th Season Gala Dinner in Penrith on Saturday 25 June 2016. The showpiece event was attended by dozens of former Panthers players, including members of the club’s 1991 and 2003 Premiership sides, along with the current NRL squad, staff and sponsors. Phil Gould AM was master of ceremonies for the evening and was joined by rugby league historian David Middleton to reflect on the club’s humble beginnings, greatest achievements and the people who made it all possible. Panthers members and fans were able to watch the Gala Dinner live on the Panthers website, thanks to an exclusive livestream hosted by Tim Gilbert.
Building Panther Pride in Panthers Precinct
2017 was a huge year from a building perspective:
- The $22 million dollar Panthers Rugby League Academy build was completed and opened in March.
- Construction for The Royce started. The Royce will deliver a state of the art retirement village with 113 one, two and three bedroom apartments, as well as a 128 bed aged care facility started. The Royce is named after Panthers legend Royce Simmons and rooms will overlook the NRL training field.
- In 2017, it was announced that East Side Quarter, a $500 million dollar 850-apartment master-planned development within the Panthers Precinct would commence the following year.
2018 was another big year:
- In 2018, the multi-level undercover car park building ‘P1’ was created.
- Also completed was a link bridge and new entrance into the club from the new car park building.
- Lakeview Bar was renovated as well and the Bottle Shop relocated from Players Bar to Lakeview Bar.
- The main gaming floor and the gaming VIP room received a $2.1 million refurbishment.
- In 2018 DA approval was granted for 116 serviced apartments with studio, one, or two bedroom configuration to be built on the western façade of the multi level car park. Developed by Panthers Group.
- In 2018 DA was submitted for the Western Sydney Community and Convention Centre. This includes an entertainment and recreation destination for the community. It would include an exhibition/conference facility for up to 1000 banquet style with dividable spaces, 190 room four-star hotel with a dining offering, rooftop pool and deck, Serviced Apartments, parking for 530 including secure and weather-protected basement parking.
Today, Panthers Leagues Club sits proudly in the middle of what will become Panthers Precinct. Since 2007, Panthers Group has proudly donated almost $17,000,000 to the local community. The club boasts 11 restaurants, 6 bars, 12 meeting, event and function rooms. Plus numerous adrenalin activities. Products include:
- Kelly’s Brasserie (Panthers owned and operated)
- Kelly’s Cafe (Panthers owned and operated)
- Rice Kid (externally owned and operated)
- GRUB (Panthers owned and operated)
- The Backyard BBQ (Panthers owned and operated)
- Zen Noodle Bar (externally owned and operated)
- Ossos Steak and Ribs (externally owned and operated)
- CJ’s Crab Shack & Grill (externally owned and operated)
- Harry’s Cafe de Wheels (externally owned and operated)
- Oliver Brown Belgian Chocolate Cafe (externally owned and operated)
All Panthers owned and operated
- Dom’s Cocktail Lounge Bar
- Squires Terrace Bar
- The Basement Sports Bar
- Lakeview Bar
- Punters Bar
- Kelly’s Bar
- Aqua Golf (Panthers owned and operated)
- Playtime (externally owned and operated)
- iFLY Indoor Skydiving (externally owned and operated)
- Cables Wake Park (externally owned and operated)
Panthers has become the heart of the west. We have grand plans for the future, we’re very excited about the ride ahead. We hope you will join us.