Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Moylan move could dent Panthers revival

The surprising suggestion that Penrith skipper Matt Moylan could be on the way out of the Panthers organisation has the potential to leave the club’s revival with tainted and irreversible damage.

Make no mistake, Matt Moylan is the pin-up boy of the Penrith Panthers. 

He’s talented, has football nous and is a local prodigy. He plays a key position on the field, and is marketable, sleek and has the model looks off it.

PRODIGAL: Matt Moylan

If you rewind to Gus Gould’s arrival back at the Nepean in 2011, you’ll remember the gutting and broomstick he put through the club’s roster. You’ll remember the overhaul of the business, the bold statements about being the country’s most recognisable sports brand, and the now infamous five-year plan.

While you might question many of Gus’ claims and hang the plans out to dry, it is undeniable that the influence of Gould has almost single-handedly turned a floundering franchise into an NRL powerhouse.

Just this week, the club put out a statement detailing how every one of their sides had made the finals for only the fourth time in the club’s 50-plus year history. And in a first, they have achieved for a second consecutive year.  

Gould’s revolution was kick-started in 2012 when he brought in Ivan Cleary and began the turnaround.

Almost parallel to the new era was the emergence of Baulkham Hills-born Matt Moylan. 

A local junior who was first off what would turn into a conveyer-belt of NRL players produced from the local Penrith district.

Bryce Cartwright and Matt Moylan have been the leading figures in Penrith's impressive junior-to-NRL transmission rate. 

At fullback, Moylan played in arguably the most prodigious position on the field outside of the traditional owner of rugby league sides, the halfback.  

His playing talents quickly shone through; he began to find his feet in the media appearing on The Footy Show as a regular; and his quick-wit, humour and good looks would have had marketing guru’s rubbing their hands together.

He fitted in perfectly to the commercial and operational redesign of the Panthers at-large. So much so, in 2016 he was handed the club’s captaincy.

It was a valiant decision, and with a squad so young it had the potential to work.

Without drawing a comparison too wild, Moylan has a tinge of former Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard about him. And so does his situation.

Local junior, poster boy, all the talent in the world, the ability to influence others through his own actions.

POSTER BOY: Moylan appears to have it all. 

But what he hasn’t fully captured yet is the persistence of effort, a resilience. 

In the age of modern-day footballers, it’s probably no surprise. But will this be the career-defining learning curve for Moylan, or the signal of the end of his time at Penrith?

In 2015, Gus Gould made an eerily similar and surprising decision to sack then Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and bring in Anthony Griffin.  

While the merits of that decision are a debate for another article, Moylan was still able to continue his rise under new coach Griffin.

He made the New South Wales side, Australian squad and was instrumental in the club’s run into the finals last season.

All while wearing the captain’s metaphorical armband. So it’s hard to work out wear it’s all gone wrong.

MIXED FORM: Penrith's form this year has been indifferent, but they've made the finals. 

Indeed, maybe both parties have reasons for wanting a change.

It Moylan is unhappy and dismayed with his current predicament, maybe a move would be best the best thing for him. A shift away from the prodigal son paradigm.

Maybe the Panthers have realised they don’t have the full deck of cards required to achieve their goal of winning another premiership and see the departure of Moylan as a way of securing what or who they need.

Like the loss of Cleary, perhaps to get where you want to go, you don’t always arrive with those who you thought you would.

But there would be a real sense of disenchantment if Matt Moylan wasn’t involved in completing Penrith’s revival.

He’s been at the front of it, at the back of it, and in the thick of it.

Chronologically, in a positional sense, and in terms of the operation respectively.