Hidden away in a part of NSW only accessible by boat, the Penrith Panthers are preparing to back up their incredible 2020.
Hidden away in a part of NSW only accessible by boat, the Penrith Panthers are preparing to back up their incredible 2020.

Inside rugby team's secluded COVID hideaway

Penrith have spent the week hidden away in a part of NSW only accessible by boat, as the club faces one of its most unique pre-seasons.

The grand finalists spent the week at Broken Bay on the Central Coast bunkered down at a recreational facility with no road access and very little mobile phone coverage.

The club placed an emphasis on ensuring the players had enough time to rest after a gruelling season impacted by coronavirus.

The Panthers are in a pre-season training camp in Broken Bay. Picture: Penrith Panthers
The Panthers are in a pre-season training camp in Broken Bay. Picture: Penrith Panthers

It has left coach Ivan Cleary and his staff with only around six weeks together as a full squad during the pre-season to prepare for a trial game against Parramatta on February 27.

But the club is confident it can rise to the challenge.

This week's camp was part of an intense training block designed to ensure players reach peak fitness and conditioning levels as quickly as possible.

The group completed a number of different training drills including skills, running, boxing and defensive sessions.

Nathan Cleary sparring with Australian boxer Bilal Akkawy during a Panthers pre-season camp in Broken Bay. Picture: Penrith Panthers
Nathan Cleary sparring with Australian boxer Bilal Akkawy during a Panthers pre-season camp in Broken Bay. Picture: Penrith Panthers

Australian super middleweight boxer Bilal Akkawy, who has been described as one of the country's heaviest pound for pound hitters, was invited to train with the players.

Akkawy boxed with halfback Nathan Cleary, among other Panthers stars.

Cleary and Akkawy are making a habit of becoming sparring partners.

The two first sparred at a NSW Blues training session in 2018. Back then, a less bulked up Cleary was sporting a body guard to protect him from Akkawy's heavy punches.

As well as boxing sessions, the players completed defensive and tackling drills in a sandpit, where five-eighth Jarome Luai was on the receiving end of a number of big hits.

Jarome Luai hit hard during a sand pit drill. Source: Penrith Panthers
Jarome Luai hit hard during a sand pit drill. Source: Penrith Panthers

 

The Penrith Panthers are put through their paces during pre-season camp. Source: Penrith Panthers
The Penrith Panthers are put through their paces during pre-season camp. Source: Penrith Panthers

The Panthers have also started working with Alex Prates, who is the coach of former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, as a wrestling consultant.

Assistant and head defensive coach Cameron Ciraldo called on Pretas to help players fine tune their wrestling techniques ahead of round one's clash against the North Queensland Cowboys.

In December 2019, the Panthers spent three days on the outskirts of Brisbane undertaking a gruelling army camp headed by former elite tactical police officers.

Brian To’o during a skills drill. Source: Penrith Panthers
Brian To’o during a skills drill. Source: Penrith Panthers

Many players credited the army style camp as the reason the side went on to enjoy a historic 2020 season which included a 17-game winning streak and grand final appearance.

"I knew after our army camp. That's when I knew there was something special about this team and what we could achieve," forward Zane Tetevano said.

Tetevano, who was released from the final year of his deal at Penrith to join Leeds Rhinos, has been training with the Panthers before he leaves Australia for the English Super League.

Originally published as Inside Penrith's secluded COVID hideaway

The Penrith Panthers are put through their paces during a pre-season camp in Broken Bay. Source: Penrith Panthers
The Penrith Panthers are put through their paces during a pre-season camp in Broken Bay. Source: Penrith Panthers
NSW Blues halfback Nathan Cleary in a training session with Australian boxer Bilal Akkawy in 2018. Source: Akkawy Boxing Club
NSW Blues halfback Nathan Cleary in a training session with Australian boxer Bilal Akkawy in 2018. Source: Akkawy Boxing Club


IN COURT: 12 people facing criminal court today

Premium Content IN COURT: 12 people facing criminal court today

Here's a list of 12 people appearing in Grafton court today

Residents warned not to fall victim to kerb paint scam

Premium Content Residents warned not to fall victim to kerb paint scam

Clarence Valley Council has issued a warning for people to be aware of scammers...

Melted Moments wins CRJC Horse of the Year award

Premium Content Melted Moments wins CRJC Horse of the Year award

Six wins in the 2019/20 season, including the Ballina Cup, was enough for the...