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Panthers still furious with Campbell-Gillard for saying he gave up on club

“Reggie is just like that, people want to take his head off, he’s a chirpy bloke,” Cleary said. “He makes some silly comments sometimes. It’s just how it is. When he said that he stopped trying last year, a few of the boys were quite pissed off about that. It might have been frustrating for him, but it was frustrating for everyone else, too.

“Last year was a pretty weird year. I didn’t notice too much at the time, but he obviously wasn’t too happy. I am happy for him now that he’s moved on to Parra and he’s happy again and playing some good footy. So good luck to him.”

Reagan Campbell-Gillard playing with Penrith in 2017.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard playing with Penrith in 2017.Credit:NRL Photos

Coach Ivan Cleary, who made the decision to drop Campbell-Gillard to reserve grade on the back of the prop’s disappointing form, understood why his players were offended by Campbell-Gillard admitting that he’d thrown in the towel.

“Anyone would take offence to that,” Ivan said. “I don’t think that’s the way to handle it. I wasn’t at my best or feeling the best last year either. I didn’t give up.”

Campbell-Gillard has fired plenty of shots at his old club since defecting to the Eels, including a jab at his old coach.

“I’m not a bench player. It’s plain and simple. I don’t like coming off the bench,” Campbell-Gillard said before the season. “Ifeel comfortable with this team. The coaching staff, it’s chalk and cheese from what I’ve been under from last year.

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“Ivan has his ways of how he coaches and Brad has another one. I feel comfortable with the way Brad wants to coach. There’s that sense of being wanted to be in the team. When Parra came knocking, it was a no-brainer. I had to bite the bullet to get out of the comfort zone.”

There’s no love lost between Parramatta and Penrith, the latter contributing about $300,000 towards the salaries of Waqa Blake and Campbell-Gillard in 2020.

Blake had a field day against his old club the last time the two teams met back in round five, embarrassing young centre Stephen Crichton in an attacking masterclass to spark a come-from-behind win and hand Penrith their first and only loss of the 2020 season so far.

“The way Waqa played last time, he pretty much single-handedly won them the game last time,” Nathan said.

“But it’s a credit to Critta [Crichton] as well. For something like that to happen so early in the season against a guy like Waqa, who was here last season, it could have taken a big toll on other younger players. I know if I was in his shoes it would have on me. The way he has bounced back has been unbelievable.”

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