It was a chilly but clear afternoon in Sydney when I made my way from Town Hall Station in the Sydney CBD out west to Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium for the NRL rugby league top of the table clash between reigning premiers Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Arriving in Penrith after a solid one-hour train journey for the sum of around $4.50 on my public transport OPAL card, I made my way through the city centre out to the stadium in what was an easy flat 20-minute or 1.5km walk passing through the local streets with other fans, flags in hand, marching to the game.
Once I arrived outside the ground, I walked around all angles of this classic space taking in the scoreboard and the old beauty of these classic suburban rugby league grounds such as the hill, scoreboard, ticket booths, and entrances that are all timeless and part of the game day architecture here.
Entering through the turnstiles we were greeted with a lively hello from security and a happy welcome from gate staff. Passing through the entrance is the merch area along in a shed with the member’s wall plaque that details the names of members who stuck by the club in 2020’s pandemic COVID season.
Kids and fans alike were able to get free TRY banners and there was a crypto giveaway while the panther claw prints in the bars acting as 1.5m social distancing and line markers looked effective with TVs playing the games too so you didn’t miss the action when getting a drink.
The food and beverage on offer here ranged from snack bars to drinks bars along with a multitude of local food trucks. The $5 cheese toasties are a bargain while other items along with drinks are about $1 cheaper for members which is a great incentive to see. Beers are probably (Moreton Daily Stadium slightly cheaper) the cheapest in an Australian sporting venue at $5-8 while even if not a member it’s still very affordable. The beer trays were $1.50 here tonight and made of plastic. I had what I think is the best pie at a rugby league game in the Garlo’s Pies steak variety and paired it with a Iron Jack for $10.80 which was very good value in my opinion for a major sporting event.
The fan engagement KIDZ KORNER is a fun carnival atmosphere for kids and families with rides and an ice cream truck located at the back of the ground and there is plenty of space both on the hill and back here for kids and families to kick and pass the footy.
The atmosphere from Penrith fans is right up there with their ‘Stand Up, Flags Up’ call to action before kick-off really getting fans ready to go with their fans really bringing the noise to the pre-game.
Panthers legend Royce Simmons was congratulated for his 300km charity walk for dementia while the Indigenous welcome to country and music was respectful and inclusive and had fans listening and clapping on what was a special night for the game and players.
I walked around the ground a few times soaking up my second time here by checking out different seating angles and marveling at the gorgeous, sacred hill that had fans rugged up in picnic rugs and blankets. While some lines were long to get F&B, there is a charm about these old grounds that cannot be beaten. I didn’t have to wait long to get a beer with a friendly security guard making sure everyone was having a good time at the ‘beer only’ bar.
The Panthers were too good over the Cowboys on a chilly night in Penrith running out 22-0 winners.
Getting away at the end was seamless and efficient with the trains lined up to full time and a relatively quick one-hour train trip back into the Sydney CBD after a brisk 15 minute walk back to the station. Local streets looked to be ok to park in as well as fans were hopping into cars close by to the ground.
A really fun rugby league matchday experience out here in Penrith that I’d encourage other rugby league fans to get out to.