The Penrith Panthers have claimed back-to-back awards as the top sporting team in the state at the prestigious Rebel NSW Champions of Sport presentation night in Sydney on Monday night.
Panthers Group Chief Executive Brian Fletcher praised NRL head coach Ivan Cleary as he accepted the award on behalf of the club in front of almost 600 guests at a gala dinner held in the International Convention Centre.
“When you have such good leadership like Ivan’s it makes everyone’s job easier,” Fletcher said.
“And when you’ve got good recruitment and other managers and coaches around him, it all goes a long way to our success.”
It was Penrith’s third ‘Team of the Year’ award – the first in 2003 after the club’s second premiership under former coach John Lang and the second last year after the Panthers won their fourth.
Cleary has led them to a remarkable three-peat Telstra Premiership success in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
The Panthers also made a clean sweep of NSWRL competitions in 2022 winning the UNE SG Ball Cup for Jersey Flegg Cup for Under 21s and The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup.
“We are a young club in terms of the ages of our players in top grade and we’ve been successful so they grow into the game knowing what it takes to get that success,” Fletcher said.
“There are around 10,000 players in the Penrith district so we have a great pool of talent to call on.”
Penrith’s award was one of 12 announced by Sport NSW and included Annelise Rosnell, who won Administrator of the Year for her work at Northern NSW Football (NNSWF), where she has instigated a range of scholarships, indigenous programs, a Daughters and Dads initiative to increase participation.
Rosnell is also participating in the NSWRL’s 20-week Women In Sports Leadership (WISL) professional development program, which aim to build capacity and opportunities for women in sports coaching and administration roles. The 2023 intake has 18 participants from 12 different sports.
Among the night’s highlights was basketball legend Lauren Jackson, AO, winning The Waratah Award for her outstanding contribution to sport in NSW both on and off the field.
She was presented with her trophy by True Blue Anthony Minichiello, who was part of the Sydney Roosters winning Team of the Year in 2002.
Former NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley, AM, won the inaugural Waratah Award in 2017.
Since the Sport NSW awards began in 1994, five Rugby League clubs have won Team of the Year – Penrith three times (2003, 2022, 2023), St George Illawarra (2010), Wests Tigers (2005), Sydney Roosters (2002), and Newcastle (1997), which correspond to NRL Premiership success.