I’ve seen the Penrith Panther

IF you grew up in the outer fringes of Sydney or in the Blue Mountains, at some point you’ve likely heard the story of the Western Sydney Panther, or ‘the Lithgow Panther’, ‘the Richmond Panther’ or, well, you get the gist.

Like Bigfoot or the Abominable Snowman, the creature is largely viewed as legend, mainly because, well, what would a big cat be doing completely removed from its native habitat, stalking around the Australian bush and remaining pretty much unseen?

There are a number of possible explanations;

Some suggest the fact that a big cat has been seen infrequently and over such a large area is indicative of aliens. It’s not hard to understand why people scoff and mock alleged witnesses when a theory like that comes to head.

Some suggest the Panther (or its predecessor) was released by visiting military, who had brought the animal to the country as their mascot and then couldn’t be bothered taking it home.

One of the more popular theories is that it was an escapee from the now defunct ‘Bullen’s Animal World’ and ‘African Lions Safari’ that used to exist in Wallacia – right in the heart of the area in which the animal has most commonly been seen. The parks closed in 1986 and 1991 respectively but still housed the large animals afterwards, and a herd of lionesses even escaped in 1995.

Then there’s the belief that the alleged ‘Panther’ is just a HUGE feral cat – the byproduct of decades of breeding and aggression, perfectly evolved to live in such a vast and densely overgrown setting.

Last but not least are the large majority of people who simply think the whole thing is bullshit. All the theories are out there and easily finable on Google, but ultimately, despite dismissal and speculation, there have been over 600 sightings of the cat over the past two decades.

Actually, make that 601 – because it might surprise you to know that I HAVE SEEN THE PANTHER. Continue reading

Wanderers take on ACL Final Boss Level

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As the Wanderers head into this Saturday’s Asian Champions League final, things could be better.

Two bad losses – a 4-1 hammering and a 3-2 loss after being 2-0 up – have already got people writing them off, but that’s OK.

And it’s not just the same people who have enjoyed watching them lose two A-League grand finals in a row, the same people who sit there going ‘tut-tut’ at the rapture of the RBB while sitting stagnantly in their seat filming free kicks on their fucking iPhone. There is concern, and it’s not unwarranted.

There is an unfathomable degree of hatred towards the Red and Black in this country. Yes, Essendon are drug-taking schoolgirl-molesters, yes, the North Sydney Bears don’t exactly exist anymore and I’m not sure how to fit them into this, but I digress.


Or do I? It really shits me, you know? If Brisbane Roar, or Melbourne Victory, or even those fucking smurfs from Sydney FC were in the final of Asia’s biggest club competition, I, as a lover and supporter of Australian football, would wish them all the best.

Would I watch the game? I can’t honestly tell you, and that’s not important. What I would do is wish them well and understand what winning the tournament would mean for an Australian team. If they lost, I certainly wouldn’t revel in laughing at my fellow supporters. I wouldn’t spend all my time actively rooting against them – and there are many out there in the Australian football community who desperately want the Wanderers to lose. I’m calling Tony Abbott because YOU’RE NOT A PART OF TEAM AUSTRALIA YOU KENT!

Anyway I could go on and on in a rant-like fashion about why we’re the most hated club in the league, but it’s not going to stop a whole bunch of you cynical people hoping against hope that the Wanderers lose this weekend and next.

You might ask “why care what other people think?” – to which I would respond with “why actively support a team to lose? Is your life that empty that you have to take some footballing schadenfreude from the Wanderers because they’ve experienced more success in three years than most A-League clubs have in the last 10? Is your life so miserable that you have….”

Anyway I’m ranting when I said I wouldn’t. Ironically enough, we’re getting just as much support from Saudi’s with the same mentality towards Al-Hilal as the Australian anti-fans I’ve just criticised so… I dunno.

Western Sydney Wanderers player Cole is surrounded by teammates as they celebrate after he scored a goal during the Asian Champions League soccer semi-final game against FC Seoul at Parramatta Stadium

BUT TO THE GAME

First and foremost, I hereby revoke everything positive I said about Allianz Stadium the other week. Not because the capacity changed or because it’s any less practical, but getting in and out of the stadium and surrounds last weekend reminded me of every other game I’ve gone to that stadium for, and what a fucking nightmare it is. Fuck Allianz, Parramatta all the way. 10 minute walk down the road or a transport cluster fuck 40 minutes drive away? I was wrong. Well, I wasn’t really, but I’m now lazy and annoyed. Yes, the packed 40,000 atmosphere is spectacular, but I genuinely cannot be fucked going through all that again.

And now some largely irrelevant random statistics.

The last two A-League seasons have seen pretty slow starts. Last year the Wanderers didn’t get our first win until Round 3 – the same round it would be this weekend if they didn’t have the ACL final. Sadly I don’t think this helps much – they’ve conceded 7 in the last 2 games, previously unheard of in Wanderers history.

Then again, they’ve been in two finals and lost them both so maybe the script is going to change in that regard too. Specious reasoning at best, I know.

Wanderers haven’t conceded at home in FUCKING AGES.

Throughout the entire knockout stages of the ACL, where they’ve faced quality opposition multiple times, they haven’t conceded a single goal in their home legs. This is incredibly advantageous and what you really need in knockout football, and entirely contrary to recent form where they’ve actually been able to use our ACL back 4 in the A-League, or even that first 3-1 loss to Ulsan back at the start of the competition.

But it’s the same back 4 that have quickly had heads down when things have gone wrong in the A-League. If they lose their perfect record with a mentally-fragile defense and concede an away goal, Wanderers could be in trouble. Concede two and it’s over. Poppa will know this.

Al-Hilal aren’t going that great either

By their own illustrious standards, Al-Hilal aren’t having a great season at the moment either. 7 games in and they’re fourth on the ladder, having also lost on the weekend to rival opposition of comparable quality. I’m not writing them off by any means – they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a good side – but they haven’t been crushing it, undefeated with 5-0 domestic wins all season either.

They’re not coming last, like the Wanderers currently are, but combined with massive wealth distribution in the Saudi league, it’s not particularly intimidating.

Win or lose, who really cares?

This has been an incredible journey for a little Australian club, and facing off against a team with a ridiculously large budget and royal patronage, in our diminutive multicultural/bogan home in ‘farken Parra’ illustrates the contrast perfectly.

I barely expected us to make it out of the group first time around, and while I haven’t gone to subsequent games with a pessimistic mindset I’ve just been happy to be there.

By contrast, the Wanderers have shown that they’re not just happy to be there anymore. They’ve beaten some of the best teams in Asia and there’s every chance they can continue to do so, and lift their first ever trophy. What’s the point of coming this far if you don’t believe you can take that final step?

Even if they’re the ones sitting on that dry Riyadh turf, heads in their hands after losing next Saturday, and the joy swimming through the veins of Wanderers haters on social media is enough to make one sick, I won’t be disappointed.

Win or lose, the Wanderers have taken fans on one hell of a ride since they arrive. Just like all good roller-coasters, it’s far better being on it.

If you don’t like roller-coasters, stop complaining and LEAVE THE FUCKING THEME PARK.

By which I mean, watch the Melbourne Derby instead. Just in case you’re stupid.