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Panthers bolsters forward pack

Penrith Panthers has bolstered its forward pack with Luke Garner, Chris Smith and Eddie Blacker committing their futures to the club.

Experienced forward Garner has agreed to join Panthers from the start of next season on a two-year deal, while Smith and Blacker have signed one-year extensions to remain with club for the 2023 NRL season.

26-year-old Garner has played 68 NRL games for Wests Tigers and will next year reunite with coach Ivan Cleary, who handed the backrower his NRL debut in 2018.

"I'm really happy to have Luke join us. I think he can really add to our team and we can add to him too,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.

"I have a great relationship with him from the past and I think he is the kind of guy who can flourish in our environment."

Luke Garner
Luke Garner

Out of respect to Garner’s current club, Panthers announces this signing during a break in the NRL season, and will not make further comment until he joins the club in November.

Smith, a former Australian Schoolboys representative, played Under-20s for the Panthers from 2012 to 2014, before making his first grade debut for the club in 2015 against the Newcastle Knights.

The Nightcliff Dragons junior, who has represented the Indigenous All Stars on three occasions, had stints with the Roosters (2016-17) and Bulldogs (2018-21) before returning to the Panthers ahead of the 2022 NRL season.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith

Blacker played his junior rugby league at the Pine Rivers Bears in Brisbane before making his NRL debut for St George Illawarra against Melbourne Storm in 2020.

The prop joined Panthers in 2021 and has been a key player in Peter Wallace’s NSW Cup team this season.

Eddie Blacker
Eddie Blacker

“On behalf of all at Panthers, we’re pleased to have secured the services of Luke, Chris and Eddie,” Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron said.

"Luke will join us with a wealth of experience to his name, and there’s no doubt his signing will add plenty of value to our NRL squad.

"As a player who developed through our system and return to Panthers later in his career, it’s great to have Chris remain at the club for a further season.

“Eddie has been a great contributor to Panthers since joining the club last season, and his re-signing adds to the depth of our front row stocks.”

The trio of signings come following contract extensions for Izack Tago, Taylan May, Sunia Turuva, Lindsay Smith, Ativalu Lisati and Liam Henry over the past month.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.