Is Michael Duffy the Penrith Panthers' biggest fan?

Panther pride: Michael Duffy shows off a selection of his Panthers memorabilia at his Ropes Crossing home Picture: Gene Ramirez
Panther pride: Michael Duffy shows off a selection of his Panthers memorabilia at his Ropes Crossing home Picture: Gene Ramirez

He would never nominate himself, but if you're looking for the most die-hard Penrith Panthers fan, Michael Duffy could be your man.

"Everyone tells me I must be their biggest fan and my missus says I'm married to the Panthers," he said.

Duffy still has his season ticket from 1991; the year he first became a member and the year the Panthers lifted their first premiership trophy.

He missed out on tickets to the grand final in 1991, but he was there when the Panthers beat the Roosters in 2003.

He's got his ticket framed and he can tell you exactly where he was sitting when Scott Sattler made his famous match-winning tackle.

When asked about his happiest memory as a Panthers supporter, Duffy can't go past the 2003 grand final.

"The two premierships were completely different," he said. "In 1991, they'd been in the grand final the year before, but in 2003, they were rank outsiders.

"I remember they lost three of their first four games of the year, then when they beat the Roosters, it was just awesome, a true fairytale."

From the 2003 crew, Mr Duffy was a big fan of Rhys Wesser, Ryan Girdler and Craig Gower, but you have to go back a bit further to find his all-time favourites.

Some of his early favourites were Terry Geary and English imports Bill Ashurst and Mike Stephenson in the 1970s.

Then there was Royce Simmons and Brad Fittler, but there was one player that always stood head and shoulders above the rest.

"Undoubtedly, my favourite Panther of all time: Greg "Brandy" Alexander.

"He was outstanding, I'd say he was their most gifted player ever.

"Even now at the fan days, he's still up for a chat and he'll always sign an autograph."

Fans day: Michael Duffy and his daughter Kiara, with Panthers players Dean Whare and Elijah Taylor, and fellow Panthers fanatic Charlotte Cleary at a recent members day.

Fans day: Michael Duffy and his daughter Kiara, with Panthers players Dean Whare and Elijah Taylor, and fellow Panthers fanatic Charlotte Cleary at a recent members day.

For all the good times Mr Duffy has had as a Panthers supporter, there have been some equally tough ones.

The one-point losses are always hard to take, but the sadder moments when players have been injured — or died — have been the worst.

Mr Duffy remembers the the time when John Farragher became a quadriplegic after a scrum collapsed.

But it is the death of Alexanders' younger brother, Ben, in 1992 that stands out the most.

"I actually remember that night, they'd just played the Roosters and I was driving home and I saw the roads blocked and the police sirens at Colyton, so I took the back road to get home.

"I didn't know why at the time, but I woke up next morning, turned on the radio and heard that Ben Alexander had been killed overnight.

"I just froze, it was like Penrith just came to halt.

"I remember with the funeral, you couldn't get anywhere near the church, there was that many people there.

"It was very sad, a tragedy and no loss could ever beat that."

Whether the Panthers are winning or losing, Mr Duffy is still there for every home game and has travelled all over Sydney and to Melbourne and the Gold Coast to watch them.

In the current crop of players Mr Duffy likes James Segeyaro and thinks Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Isaah Yeo are destined for big things.

"There was a 12-year gap between the premierships in 91 and 2003, so my theory is we win one every 12 years, so 2015 will be the year they win again."

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