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TOPIC: Rhys ready to roar for Panthers

Rhys ready to roar for Panthers 3 years 4 months ago #20960

  • Panther1967
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ANOTHER Leeton product is preparing to take to the NRL stage with Rhys Wilesmith starting what he hopes is a long career with Penrith Panthers this week.

Wilesmith, 17, signed with the Panthers earlier last year, but completed his HSC studies before moving up last Sunday to start training on Monday.

The link between the big junior and the respected NRL club was first established when he had just turned 16.

"I played a Group 20 (under 16s) game and I walked out of the dressing sheds and Jim Jones (Penrith recruitment manager) pulled me aside," Wilesmith said. "He said 'if you're interested in going further in your footy career, we're interested in having you up at Penrith'.

"I was a little bit surprised, I played like crap that game. I didn't expect nothing of it."

However, the Panthers were impressed by his size and pace.

The club continued communicating with Wilesmith and his parents, Garry and Sheree.

It appointed management company SFX Sports, which also has former Leeton junior Mark Nicholls as a client, and manager Darryl Mather and a two-year NRL contract was negotiated and signed.

The contract effectively locked him up for the club's SG Ball team (under 18s).

Since then, Wilesmith was monitored by the club at trials and playing against the Western Academy side in January. They would also catch up with him at representative carnivals.

Another aspect of his preparation for next year was training at the Australian Institute of Sport for one week every school holidays.

Despite knowing the day was coming, actually starting his new life with the club was still taking time to sink in for Rhys as he was only given three days' notice that his presence was required.

"I've got the general idea we're going to get flogged," he said.

While there is no one else in the under 18s side he knows, next year Rhys will be joined by Temora's Liam Martin, who he has played a lot of football with.

"It's a good club with good facilities," Rhys said. "The way they're set up, it's pretty good.

"(Penrith's) on the edge of the city, it's not a half-bad place, it's still a little bit country."

Rhys will be required to work at least 20 hours a week or study, with the club ready to help find him a job or set up study options.

"I'm looking forward to changing the scenery," he said.

"Hopefully I can keep up with the pace. I'll give it a proper crack and see how I go."

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