Billionaire James Packer is a proud part-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs – but is also revered in Penrith after saving the Panthers from folding.
As a favour to close mate Phil Gould, the club’s general manager at the time, the billionaire businessman handed over a $10 million loan in 2012.
The loan saw the club live to fight another day and develop into a modern day NRL premiership heavyweight.
Just under a decade ago, the Panthers were loaned $100 million from ING Bank, and when New Zealand corporate raider Torchlight called in 10 per cent of the debt to be paid immediately, it was Packer to the rescue.
Former Panthers chairman Don Feltis recalled being blown away by Packer’s generosity.
Panthers trio Brian To’o, Jerome Luai and Stephen Crichton may never have graced the NRL if it wasn’t for the financial intervention of James Packer in 2012
Media mogul James Packer handed over a $10 million loan to Penrith as a favour to Phil Gould
Nathan Cleary’s Penrith will look to go one better on Sunday after losing the 2020 NRL Grand Final
‘It was the first time I’d met him and he (Packer) said: ”Don, we’ll give you the $10 million. That’s no problem”,’ Feltis told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Just like that. There was no interest or anything. A few months later we sold Nepean Shores (a retirement village) for $11 million and paid Packer back.’
Gould called in the urgent favour from his media mogul friend, acutely aware the club was on the verge of extinction if he sat on his hands.
A selfless Packer said he agreed to the loan as ‘Phil (Gould) is a great friend’ and ‘he told me the Panthers needed my support’.
Despite his financial intervention, Packer’s loyalty isn’t in doubt ahead of the NRL Grand Final this Sunday – he will cheering on the Rabbitohs, who are chasing their first premiership since 2014.
The Panthers last won a title in 2003, and 30 years ago in 1991 also hoisted the trophy after beating Canberra 19-12 at the Sydney Football Stadium.
And in a bombshell development on Tuesday morning, the NRL decider could be shifted to Townsville this Sunday following six new Covid cases overnight in Brisbane.
Two of the new cases were acquired overseas, and one is an international traveller who tested positive after they came out of hotel quarantine.
But the remaining three – a husband and wife and a truck driver – are concerning Queensland health officials.
The truck driver was active in the community for a week before testing positive. The Brisbane guest house where he was living has since been sealed off.
Adalong Guest House in South Brisbane – across the road from a school and adjacent to a major hospital – is also under police guard, with more than a dozen residents put into isolation and being tested.
The new infection comes just days ahead of the NRL Grand Final to be hosted in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night.
James Packer (pictured left) and Hollywood actor (pictured in cap) are high profile owners of the Rabbitohs
Local junior Adam Reynolds will look to pilot the Rabbitohs to premiership glory this Sunday – before moving on to the Brisbane Broncos in 2022
Townsville is on standby to host the match as the NRL contingency plan, but the Queensland premier insisted Brisbane will still be hosting the game at the moment.
‘There has been no discussions with the NRL,’ Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday morning.
‘When my phone rings, I’ll be updating people but there is no concern at the moment.’
Tickets for the premiership decider between South Sydney and Penrith at the 52,000 capacity stadium have already sold out.
At this stage the NRL is not overly concerned about a last-minute switch to Townsville, but the next 48 hours will be critical.
Should a lockdown be announced in the coming days, the NRL would then pull the trigger and relocate the clash to Far North Queensland for the first time.
Townsville’s stadium has a maximum capacity of 25,000 people, less than half of the crowd that Suncorp will hold if the game is able to go ahead as planned in Brisbane.
ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys said it was ‘not a concern’ at this stage, but a series of urgent talks today with health experts and the Queensland government could see a different outcome.
‘The grand final won’t stay at Suncorp Stadium if there is a lockdown, but at this stage there isn’t one, so we have to hope and pray there isn’t a lockdown,’ V’landys said.
Asked what will happen if the Queensland government won’t allow the NRL grand final to be played at Suncorp, V’landys said: ‘Townsville is Plan B.’
Sunday’s grand final is slated to kick-off at 7.30pm (AEST).
Latest Covid exposure sites in Queensland:
Albany Creek. McDonalds Albany Creek Drive Thru. 768 Albany Creek Rd. Thursday 23 September 2021 from 5.05am – 5.10am. Low risk contact
Eatons Hill. Mother Duck Childcare & Kindergarten. 6-12 Bunya Park Dr Eatons Hill, Queensland 4037. Thursday 23 September 2021 from 7.25am – 8am. Casual contact
Rocklea. Seats ‘R’ Us. 1/1620 Ipswich Rd , QLD 4106 . Thursday 23 September from 11.15am – 11.45am. Close contact
Aspley. Freedom Furniture 815 Zillmere Rd Brisbane. Thursday 23 September 2021 from 4.40pm – 5pm Casual contact