Rugby League was first played in the Penrith and surrounding districts from 1912 involving teams from Emu Plains, Penrith, Wallacia Blue Mountains and St Marys. On April 27th 1912 the Nepean Times Newspaper at Penrith reported that a breakaway trial Rugby League match took place between Glenbrook Rovers and a combined Penrith and Emu Plains team at Penrith showground. An Ashfield newspaper reported a Rugby League trial involving players from the Penrith area was played at Fairfield in 1908. It appears Rugby League was an entity well before 1912 even though no one would admit it.
The second officially reported game of Rugby League in the Penrith District was on the 12thMay 1912 when the newly formed Penrith United Football Club played a game against a team from Parramatta, which further confirmed that various games of Rugby League were played in the Penrith district between 1908 and 1912.
By this time, Rugby League was well established west of Sydney.
On the 10th May 1913 at a meeting in the Red Cow Hotel the Penrith Rugby League Association was formed with a report that the club was in a very sound financial position having assets of two pounds nine shillings. The Red Cow Hotel became the headquarters of Rugby League in Penrith through to well into the 1920’s.
A Penrith team continued to play on through 1914 to 1916 against teams from Parramatta, Lidcombe, Auburn and Emu Plains with other teams from Richmond, Windsor, Riverstone, Blacktown and St Marys joining the competition in 1915.
About 1922 the Penrith club adopted the name Penrith Waratahs and played in blue & white colours with its home ground in the Centre of the Penrith Showground. Years later when they entered the NSWRL competition they dropped the name Waratahs, with was left of the local junior league club, they retaining the name Waratahs, which they still have to this day.
In 1926 the Penrith club was re-formed and officially known as the Penrith Rugby League Club and played in a competition known as Western Suburbs. Rugby League continued through the 1930’s and the depression and the 1940’s and in 1942 they also made the Penrith Showground their home ground.
During the 1950’s the Parramatta Junior League was formed and all teams in and around the Penrith District became affiliated with and played in the Parramatta JL competitions with St Marys and Penrith being arch rivals. In 1956 Penrith was the first junior Rugby League club to be granted a Second Division License.
In the early 1960’s a inter district competition, later re-named Second Division, was formed comprising teams from Penrith, Ryde Eastwood, Wentworthville, Newtown and others. In 1964 the Penrith club adopted the name Panthers and over the next two seasons there was a significant move to gain admittance to the NSWRL first division competition, with Penrith, Wentworthville and Cronulla all strongly considered for the two available positions.
On the 4th July 1966 at a meeting of the NSWRL, the Penrith & Districts Junior Rugby League and the Penrith Referee’s Association became entities, when Penrith and Cronulla were admitted to the first division competition. The large Parramatta junior league district was divided into two, with the western side from the Centre of Blacktown allocated as Penrith Junior League District.
In 1967 when the Penrith team (now known as Panthers) was promoted to the NSWRL First Grade Competition, the first Penrith & Districts Junior Rugby League competition was formed with the following clubs nominated as the inaugural 15 members:
The Logo you see attached to this post is the inaugural logo used for the district. Click here to see all logo from over the years.
The number of clubs gradually grew and at one stage during the 70s had more than doubled to 32 clubs. During the late 80s a series of amalgamations took place and the number of clubs reduced from 32 to 24. Some examples of the amalgamations are as follows:
In November 1986 the Panthers club appointed its first full time Junior League Administrator to manage the Junior League operation. In June 1989 the Junior League went through a significant overhaul and became an incorporated Company with all Junior League clubs becoming incorporated associations. As a result, the first Board of Management was elected by its members in 1989.
Since then in November every year there are elections at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the Board of Management. In 2009 this was changed to bi-annual elections for these positions.
Since 1967 there have been a number of major Rugby League developments throughout the vast Penrith District. The Penrith and Districts Junior Rugby League has increased in size and expertise and became the trendsetters where today, the district is regularly approached by Rugby League and other sporting organisations who want to tap into our expertise.
The Penrith and Districts Junior Rugby League continue to develop their players and have provided many outstanding players from our own backyard that have delivered 3 NRL Premierships, the latest being in 2021.
Rugby League at Penrith has progressed from secret meetings held in the back room of the Red Cow Hotel in 1908 through the times that followed to become a vitally important part of the NRL and NSWRL strategy and a fabric of the community of Western Sydney and throughout the vast Penrith District and commonly known as, ‘place to play’.
Let the next chapter begin...
Updated - October 2021
Granted the privileges of Life Membership according to the certified rules of the Junior League because of outstanding service, and entitles you to wear this badge of Life Membership, attend any annual or ordinary General Committee Meeting and to stand for any position in the Junior League.
Since 1967 there have been a number of major Rugby League developments throughout the vast Penrith District. We have a distinguished group of executives that have guided our district into the position we are in today.
Developing and supplying match officials for the greatest game of all, in the Penrith District for over 50 years.
Penrith and Districts Junior Rugby League Club Ltd
Panthers Rugby League Academy, 123 Mulgoa Road, Penrith New South Wales 2750, Australia
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