The Panthers' minor premiership claim was met when Cleary's selection pain emerged

The Panthers’ minor premiership claim was met when Cleary’s selection pain emerged

The Panthers have confirmed they will lift the JJ Giltinan Shield in front of a sell-out crowd at BlueBet Stadium next weekend.

Ivan Cleary’s side secured a minor premiership with a 26-22 victory over the high-flying Rabbitohs on Thursday night – and now the veteran coach faces a big decision regarding his squad’s fitness.

The Panthers’ final game is set to be played in Townsville, with the club confirming NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo will present the Minos premiership a week early.

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“The club will be presented with the JJ Giltinan Shield by NRL CEO Andrew Abd following the conclusion of the Round 24 match,” a club statement read.

Panthers chief executive Brian Fletcher revealed he would hold talks with Abd about the potential of allowing home fans to see the presentation.

The JJ Giltinan Shield is traditionally presented at the end of the competition for the winner of round 25.

“We would love to receive the trophy next weekend, our fans deserve to have it presented in front of them,” Fletcher told SMH.

“If we can do it, it’s going to be a sell-out crowd for that reason.

“I will speak to (NRL chief executive) Andrew on Friday. You don’t want to take the trophy all the way to north Queensland when the minor premiership is over.’

The Panthers have now won the minor premiership in two of the last three seasons and will be hoping to defend their premiership in finals football.

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Now Ivan Cleary has a number of big decisions to make – hoping his team stays unscathed in the postseason.

Star playmaker Nathan Cleary is set to return in the first week of the finals, while Jarome Luai’s return date could be earlier than expected, with reports suggesting he will appear at Origin 5-8 in round 25.

The Panthers coach has explained that he has a plan to rest key players coming into the final and The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio believes the Panthers will be the biggest prize.


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“I could see why they would do it, it’s definitely to win the premiership in the end,” Riccio said on SEN.

“Jarome Luai, I understand he will be back for the last round of the season.

“It will be an interesting scenario for Ivan Cleary to play out over the next few weeks.

Cleary can give defender Dylan Edwards, key lock Isaah Yeo, center Stephen Crichton and backrowers Viliame Kikau and Liam Martin a week off in the hope they will be fully fit for the first week of the finals.

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