Posts Tagged ‘Penrith Panthers’

The Stars Are Half As Bright – A Final Note On A Full Life

In General Mish-Mash on October 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm

At 5:10pm on Wednesday 4th October the final breath was taken by my dad, Roger Cowan. A memorial service was held outdoors at Panthers, followed by a chance to share drinks and stories in, ironically*, The Ron Mulock OAM Room at the Panthers Events Centre.

(*If you don’t understand why this is ironic I recommend you try and get hold of a copy of Jenny Bentley’s Panthers Passion & Politics – The Roger Cowan Years.)

A big thank you to everyone who came along to the service, those sent us messages of condolence and support, and those who for a fleeting moment gave a thought to Roger.

A number of people asked for a copy of my eulogy. It’s too long to publish here but you can download a copy by clicking on the link below. There is also a link to Glenn Matthews’ message for Roger from Kona, Hawaii where he was competing in the Hawaiian Ironman 2017.

Download the Eulogy for Roger Cowan delivered by Max Cowan.

Download the Glenn Matthews Message about Roger Cowan from Kona Hawaii.

Scroll down for a video of 3 of the eulogies – it runs for 32 minutes.

Other information:

The Big Panther Has Gone But Will Never Be Forgotten – from prominent hospitality mover and shaker Jenny White of White Now!

Grace Funerals Tributes Page – read how others have paid tribute to Roger; leave a tribute of your own; you can even upload photos, videos, sound bites that may add to our memories.

Roger Cowan 2016

Roger in November 2016

From the Roger & Phyllis Cowan Tribute Luncheon – Video Etc

In General Mish-Mash on November 1, 2015 at 8:50 am

Tax deductible donations to Roger & Phyllis Cowan Trust still being accepted until 9th November at Men Of League – Cowan Tribute.

On Friday 23rd October 2015, the major clubs’ associations in NSW banded together to hold a tribute and benefit function for my parents – Roger & Phyllis Cowan.

This united effort is something rare. Why did it happen?

  • To recognise and applaud their impact on and standing in the club industry.
  • To provide needed support to ease the long term damage on them after being singled out for political mistreatment.

At the luncheon I was required to introduce a video that we’d put together for the event. The introduction and the video appear below.

It is still possible to make a donation (tax deductible) to the Roger & Phyllis Cowan Trust, just go to the following link:

Men Of League – Cowan Tribute

This link will remain open until close of business on 9th November 2015 (Roger’s 80th birthday)

Following is the video introduction and the video:


Ladies & Gentleman, Colleagues, Friends, & Family

You’ve heard and seen some special tributes for Roger & Mum.

My job is to introduce another video – a more personal intimate look at Roger and Phyllis.

But really I am more here to pay personal tribute to you.

To offer you thanks on behalf of Roger & Mum and see if I can help you understand how you’ve touched and moved our entire family.

I can’t really do that without putting this moment into context. Like every event, this one has its own history.

On Melbourne Cup Day last year – so, just on a year ago – Roger had a stroke. It seemed mild and he had medical attention pretty quickly.

There were good reasons to be optimistic about a full recovery.

In fact it wasn’t long before he was doing what Roger does – pushing the exercising to the limit with long striding laps around the backyard and high rpms on the stationary cycle.

But he had a fall, another stroke – since then his condition has declined.

Naturally, this has had an impact on us all – and Mum in particular.

We have all pulled together – as most families would.

We all age, we are all subjected to infirmity as we age – it is universal. Everyone goes through it, every family has to face it.

What is not universal are the things that shape our entry into this period of our lives – the twilight as they say, or the 7th age of man as Shakespeare put it.

As Roger & Mum headed toward this stage, their trajectory promised a twilight of dignity & comfort. Their life – and ours too – had been great, it was great. It had been carved out by hard work, strong principles, vision, good humour, plenty of wine and some good luck.

A single event turned that trajectory upside down – cast us into a vortex … inescapable, heartbreaking, and shaking every branch and generation of our family.

I don’t think I need to go into detail but I will say this:

A 17th Century Cardinal – Richelieu – once said:

Give me 6 lines written by the most honest of men and I will find reason to hang him.

Ian Temby had a lot more than 6 lines to look at – he had volumes. Volumes and volumes. Covering more than 10 years of Roger’s professional and private life and Mum’s as well.

He also had sworn testimony from some who were intent on hanging Roger – and he had the support of the government and the media.

But Temby found nothing. Certainly nothing that could support hanging. The worst thing he found was an obsessive need for privacy about his salary.

But Roger had already been hung.

And so approaching their twilight – their 7th Age of Man – Mum & Roger were plunged into this vortex.

The trajectory had changed and everything was tipped up and tossed around.

Between that moment – more than a decade ago – and now, we had each other. We pooled our resources – our physical resources, emotional resources, financial resources – and we contained the impact as much as we could.

As an aside can I just say how lucky we are – that my brothers and I have partners  so strong, staunch and selfless. Right through this tumultuous time Chris, Lynn, and Karen – have given much more than you can imagine and we appreciate it much more than we ever show.

But try as we did we weren’t able to turn things around.

To me there is a clear, direct line between that event and us standing here today accepting, with great humility and enduring gratitude, your generosity and support.

Personally there are two memories that haunt me. They both pierce my mind often but especially when I visit Roger and look into his eyes and then up to a wall of photographs in his room.

The first is a moment in 2002 when during a Panthers presentation night one of the instigators of the game- changing event stumbled up to me, smiled and in a drunken slur said:

“I really like you, Max – it’s a shame what we have to do to your dad.”

I wish he could see what he and his compatriots did.

The second is Roger standing up at his last Panthers AGM and declaring:

“Those of you who have set out to hurt me have won. You have hurt me.”

So, we stand before you – still hurting.

But feeling the scars being soothed by your support, your generosity, your recognition of the contribution from both Roger & Phyllis and for the injuries they’ve sustained.

In fact, that soothing started with one very special person metaphorically and literally putting her arms around us and saying “Wait a minute, this can’t be right, we need to help”.

We shed some tears of relief.

And Rhonda Bowen went into action.

Quickly, the major industry associations – Leagues Clubs Australia, Clubs NSW, RSL & Services Clubs Association, and Club Managers Association – generously linked arms and put their shoulders to the wheel in support of Roger & Mum.

And so we have this moment of coming together in tribute and support of Roger and Phyllis.

Mention must be made some others:

Mark Condi, his Board and his team here at Bankstown Sports Club –who did not hesitate when asked to host this event. In fact, I think they said it would be an honour to do be the host venue.

All the suppliers, sponsors and donors – thank you.

Garrie Gibson, Peter Turnbull, Anne Fitzgerald, Bryn Miller, Chris Keeble & Rhonda Bowen who put this event together.

Can I just say Chris Keeble’s energy and passion seems limitless and she is very generous with both.

Casablanca Studios & Page 2 Productions who put together the audio visual material.

Of course Paul Martell and Brian Doyle – long time friends and supporters – what stalwarts they are.

And lastly Niki McDonagh from Southern OT whose therapeutic philosophies and practices have … well, she got Roger here today!! What a champion.

But most of all, and I can’t say it often enough, thanks to each and every one of you from each of us Cowans who are here today and those that aren’t

Please make sure you are in the guest book so future Cowans can also reflect on your importance to this moment in the family folklore.

We believe it is a moment is far more reflective of humanity and the real nature of our industry, than the events that have caused it to happen.

Right now here is a video that shows something of the Seven Ages Of Roger & Phyllis.

A Very Proud Panther Who Respected The Past And Created The Future

In General Mish-Mash on July 6, 2015 at 8:10 pm

I have not written here for quite some time … I felt compelled to put this down for many reasons.

Leo Armstrong recently passed away. Leo’s service to our nation during WWII was more than distinguished. He flew 32 missions in the RAAF’ Bomber Command – including the very last mission of the Lancaster, “G for George”.

G for George with crew. Leo Armstrong 2nd from the left.

G for George with crew. Leo Armstrong 2nd from the left.

He embedded himself within the Penrith community in 1969, when he began managing the Penrith branch of the Commonwealth Bank. For the rest of the millennium and into the next, he continue to serve with great dignity and distinction – this time his service was to his community, the Penrith community and its citizens.

For Leo, sport was a central interest – whether as a participant or fan, he competed. So, he was really at home in the Penrith region which then, as now, boasted a vibrant sporting culture.

At the apex of this sporting region is the Penrith District Rugby League Football Club – which had been admitted to the elite Sydney competition, only 2 years before Leo arrived in Penrith. Leo’s passion for this fledgling club in the premium competition – the Penrith Panthers –  quickly took hold.

And he never held back in his support for the club and the team. He never left his “A” game in the sheds.

By 1980 Leo had been elected to the Board of Penrith Rugby League Club Ltd and, in 1984, became Chairman of the Board that unified the League Club and the Football Club.

This was a tumultuous period in the club’s history. In fact, Leo’s tenure as Chairman was littered with turmoil – merging Boards, controversial move to Mulgoa Rd, Super League, SL & ARL unification into NRL, NRL criteria & culling of teams, amalgamations, Board Wars …

And, through all this Leo kept a cool head and calmly navigated the organisation through very stormy weather … until he was caught from behind by a couple of snipers who were supposed to be on the same team.

Wounded badly, the reins were yanked from his grasp.

But some of Leo’s other qualities – perhaps his greatest qualities – his dignity, humanity, and humour meant that his stature remained untarnished.

Leo’s massive contribution to country, community and club is something for which we should all be grateful and proud – especially those associated with Panthers.

But …

At his funeral there was not a Panthers representative in sight – let alone attending to deliver an appropriate eulogy.

Yes, Panthers did provide the space, staff and catering for the wake – but even there not a Panthers official could be found. Mind you it was good to see a number of (ex) Panthers there offering their personal respect.

Then the Panthers organisation did not take the opportunity to mark Leo’s contribution to club, community and country on the event of their next home game. Admittedly this would have required a good deal of effort. But someone in the Panthers organisation should have either done the research and the work … or engaged someone who could do it.

You know, I reckon even those internal snipers that rolled Leo out of office in 2000 would have afforded Leo and his family the time, the effort and the respect that his contribution warrants.

I am astounded by this lack of attention – especially from the club that boldly proclaims:

“Respect the Past, Create the Future”

respect the past

Perhaps, a lesson could be derived from this – how about each member of the Panthers Board be asked to write a thousand words on the following essay topic.

Slogans may be written, they may be spoken, they may be shouted,  but it is only when they are lived that they hold any value. Discuss.

I’d love to see the response of the current Chairman who is ultimately responsible for this accidental or deliberate show of disrespect..

His response would be in marked contrast to the offering from the distinguished, thoughtful gentleman who held the Chair between 1984 and 2000 and who lived the values espoused by the proclamation. The same values that the current Chairman and his Board has rendered so hollow.

Assessing the value of a sport – example: Penrith Panthers.

In General Mish-Mash on February 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

How do you measure the value of the game, the team, the club … what do they really bring to their community? Once you measure it, how do you illustrate it, what words describe it, how do you get others to believe in it?

These are questions we asked ourselves regularly.

The first response to such an inquiry is often to look towards the bean-counters for answers, sometimes it is suggested that it is a question of brand value and it’s discoverable through market (or marketing) research. Once an answer is found (if it is), it is handed to communicators and marketers to get others to buy into the equation.

Overwhelmingly those asking this question about value seek answers that are numeric, easily understood, and easily sold.

But I remember watching Ryan Girdler signing autographs one day.

An hour after all the players had left he still had a queue in front of him. He stayed until the last person. Every single person on that queue was given the attention they needed to feel special. The very last person was a little boy … and when his poster was signed, Ryan took off his cap, patted him on the shoulder and said, “Would you like my cap? It’s yours!” . 

The look on that boy’s face was priceless … and so was the look of satisfaction that Ryan had. It was simple thing, a brief, shared moment – paying homage and respect to the effort they had each put in. A timeless moment, expressing something far too complex and precious to be assessed using the methodology of accountants or auditors. (Ryan may have forgotten that moment as he had many of these moments, I doubt the boy has, and it is indelibly stamped in my memory.)

In 2008, we decided to take a different approach to this perplexing question of assessing and expressing the value of our game, club.

We handed the question over to an artist! About as distant from econometrics as you can get.

Why? Well, artists historically have been about expressing value and values in unique and often confronting ways, ways that either engage or challenge or both. We wanted both – engagement and to have our paradigms challenged. (Well, I wanted that challenge for us … )

Craig Walsh was the artist selected for this project. The following notes on value were written for the exhibition of Craig’s work. The work was called Heads Up. To take a look at some of the images, view the promotional video, and hear the artist talk about the work – click here – or click on the image below  new window will open).

This photo gives you an idea of the scale of the images created … and further below is the article on the Panthers written for the exhibition:

An idea of scale - there were 17 images of this size in the exhibition.


The general practice, when questions of value arise, is to hand over to some sort of assessor whose fundamental metric is symbolised by the dollar sign.

Measuring the value of the Penrith Panthers Rugby League team in our community is the launching point for this work.

We have handed over to an artist!

The financial impact of our game, our club, and our team on our community is an important measure. Its importance sometimes masks a lack of depth and dimension. It is desperately inadequate for assessing the real value of anything.

Even modern accountancy’s “triple bottom line” cannot give a rounded and complete picture. This is true even for the most discrete and simple activity, let alone the game of Rugby League … or a Rugby League game!

To truly measure value we need to extend out palette beyond the red and black inks of the ledger. The assessment tools and indicators we use need to exist beyond the shadows cast by financial symbols.

What if, during a game, we monitored fans and measured the changes in heart rate, the drip rate of beads of sweat, the rate of flow of tears, the glances of unspoken camaraderie, the grieving time (this is being written after a big loss) or emotional altitude reached in celebration of an important win?

Can we measure the depth of admiration in the eyes of the young autograph-hunting fan … or the extent to which that look increases the sense of self-esteem and responsibility in the young, rookie player. Indeed, even in the “old” hard-heads on the verge of retirement and those already confined to play their game through legendary tales.

At Penrith Panthers what sort of emotional thermometer is applied to our players, administrators and educators alike when they witness the graduation ceremony of students in the Panthers on the Prowl program? We can count the number of young children who earn their membership of The Prowling Panthers fraternity. We should be able to collect and weigh the tears of joy from proud parents and the decibels emitted by the sighs from grateful teachers. These are far more valuable than the result on the screen of any imaginable calculator.

This work by Craig Walsh measures the value of our game in ways that have not been attempted before. There is certainly evidence of that stoic Aussie mask, filtering the raw emotion, camouflaging the vulnerable and uncut treasure.

Craig has found a transparency, allowing us all to enter and count for ourselves the jewels in each of these images and each of these individuals.

The scars, the pores, the imperfections, the eyes, the discolouration, the emotion, the entire collection of minutiae evident in Heads Up are all measures of the impact of the players on each other, and they allow us to project as to the impact of both the players and the game on the community.

(By the way, by “players” I mean those players who take the field and those players who take their places in grandstands and on the hills of the stadium.)

These images have an infinite number of dimensions and potential interpretations. They cannot be reduced to caricatures, they are not images of super-heroes nor are they stereotypes representing a particular class or region.

They are human. Exceptionally high in value and warranting attention.


The Art of Engagement – 3 Worlds Collide!!!

In General Mish-Mash, Mish-Mash of Books on August 4, 2011 at 10:30 am

The Art of Engagement - Lally, Eng, & Anderson

Is it possible for commercial, creative, and community interests to be in complete alignment? What happens when they are?

A new publication hits the bookstores this week. This publication has great relevance for me – it documents a project that occupied my attention for some time.

The C3 West project.

In brief, this project calls up the potential power existing in territory defined by the intersection of 3 categories of endeavour – Commerce, Creativity, & Community. The geographical focus was Western Sydney. Hence C3 West.

These areas of human effort seem to meet infrequently – and when they do it is all too often about employment rather than engagement. It is driven by more by transaction or exchange rather than by collaboration.

  • A business commissions a piece of art or offers patronage/sponsorship to a local gallery,
  • A company makes charitable contributions to community initiatives,
  • An artist is driven to articulate some expression about a community issue,
  • A community canvasses designs to enhance a public space.

The value of these connections, and others like them, are vital. Their importance should never, ever be underestimated. Nevertheless, they are exchanges that provide a momentary bridge between disparate disciplines.

What if? What if … at some time, in some space, under some conditions the drive within these 3 areas was in unison. What if the imperatives of commerce, creativity, and community were treading the same path, in the same direction, towards the same goal.  What a potent time and space that could/would be.

Could we consciously create that condition, that space, that time? Wouldn’t that be interesting and, perhaps, rewarding!

It certainly was both interesting and rewarding for me.

It is a great project. The project was, and is, being followed and documented by:

  • Elaine Lally, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts & Social Science, UTS
  • Ien Ang, Professor of Cultural Studies, Director of Centre for Cultural Research, UWS
  • Kay Anderson, Professor of Cultural Research, UWS

They have co-authored this publication:
The Art of Engagement: Culture, Collaboration, Innovation.

Click on the cover picture above or here to get more information about the book.

Click here and you can have a look at some extracts from the book, including the Foreword by the fabulous Liz Ann Macgregor, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.  

AFL, NRL, Western Sydney – War?? What is it good for?

In Mish-Mash of Wisdoms, Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Last night on the news I saw Graham Annesley (ex NRL COO, current NSW Minister for Sport) handballing a Sherrin to Andrew Demetriou – part of the AFL’s announcement that one of its premium events – the Draft – will be held in Western Sydney, backyard of their newest franchise, The GWS Giants.

An image full of irony.

Demetriou & Annesley - Partners in an Ironic Dance

There has been much talk for some time about the war (or imminent war) between AFL & NRL over Western Sydney. Phil Gould, Penrith Panthers RL GM is reported to be trying to spark the NRL into military action against the southern insurgents. I even saw on one forum some Panthers fans up in arms about the fact their local newspaper devoted their front page to a story about the Penrith Rams Aussie Rules team.

The battle, I guess is a distraction and the subject is a fairly emotive point of discussion … at least for NRL supporters. The AFL nor its fans and supporters seem to be talking about “war”, they seem to be focussing on how they can make things work better for them.

I think the AFL would be happy the NRL, its clubs, and NRL strategists, feel they are in a war. While they strategise about what they should do to combat the AFL,  the AFL strategises about how they can do things better.

The question is where will this “war” take us (us=RL) – my guess is that, if “war” really is the driver of either the clubs or the leagues, then it will use up a lot of resources for very little benefit to anyone. War implies a focus and attention on your opponent. That sort of focus in business can be disastrous.

The most recent war for Rugby League was the civil war. It started in 1995 and, 16 years leter, the scars have not healed.

Imagine what a great position the game would be in if the (in excess of) $1b spent during that war had have been spent on improving the game, its administration, its grass roots, its strategic position, its standing and profile. Imagine the state of our game now if Packer, Arthurson,, Murdoch, Ribot, and all the other players had sat down and said lets work out where we all want to be in 10 years time (or 20 or 50) and then design a pathway to that goal.

But, they each focused on the other!!! When they should have focussed on the game!

The moment your focus becomes your opponent, and your intent becomes destructive, that is the very moment you should be doing a bit of self-examination and looking at what you can do to improve yourself (irrespective of there being any opposition.)

Interestingly enough, it seems to me that it is the NRL who see themselves at war (or that war is imminent). They see themseleves as being invaded and think its is time to defend their turf. Well boys, guess what???

You are too late!

The invasion has happened and the only way you can win the so-called war is to improve yourself. Not one solitary cent should be spent with the intention of disarming or destroying the other side.

The AFL seem happy to co-exist, to acknowledge the value and position of Rugby League. They even had some of their players pay homage to the Blues in State of Origin – some may see this as somehow devious but the fact is that it did, and does, pay respect to the premium NRL event. I doubt the NRL would ever allow their players to make such a complimentary gesture.

My god, even the choice of colour and jersey design for GWS was a huge compliment to Wests Tigers. It paid great homage to Wests Tigers – it makes an inference that those colours, those brand elements, that belong to Wests Tigers best represent Western Sydney. What an opportunity for Wests Tigers to leverage. What could come from a strategic relationship between Wests Tigers &  GWS? A partnership aimed at strengthening the Western Sydney sporting, cultural, and economic juggernaut. And, simultaneously building and deepening their own influence in the region.

Working together with GWS those Wests Tigers colours would be identifiably Western Sydney in less than a generation. And it would be difficult for that to happen without GWS, perhaps impossible.

So, in typical NRL fashion, The Wests Tigers blew up and threatened legal action. Just as Packer, Arthurson, Piggins etc blew up when Murdoch entered the equation in 1995 – opportunity lost.

My first thought at Penrith was to approach GWS and work out ways we could work together to make Western Sydney a stronger region, but there were some internal barriers. Parramatta could also work them in constructive ways. But the opportunity for Wests Tigers was (and is) much bigger.

Nah! I am afraid the NRL boys haven’t learnt a great deal and are looking to throw more money in a war. And worse, they have identified the wrong enemy … who is the real enemy? Well, I might broach that question another time.

Opera Australia, Western Sydney, & Football

In General Mish-Mash on June 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm

The artistic director of Opera Australia, Lyndon Terracini, is looking to expand Opera Australia’s audience base … and he believes Western Sydney holds the key to that ambition.

See SMH June 21, 2011 – Opera looks to footy to make its mark.

There would be many who’d say he was dreamin’!

Undoubtedly many look at the “golden” west as the host of rich fields of customers ready for harvesting. The SMH article seems to suggest Terracini has this belief.

His belief may well be spot on … and there exists plenty of evidence to support that view.

Nevertheless, before attempting to harvest it is sensible – in fact may be essential – to enrich & fertilise the fields first, seed appropriately,  and ensure sustainability.

To move out of the metaphor, Opera Australia needs to give to the region before it can expect to be supported by the region.

Now, according the SMH article, Terracini sees his way into Sydney’s West as being paved by football – the AFL variety. He identifies Andrew Demetriou (the AFL supremo) as being his trailblazer because he has a solid grip on Australian culture. Better than most people engaged in either the arts sector or the political world. Again there is plenty to support this view. However, the jury can’t yet have returned a verdict on the evidence cited, namely the AFL’s move into Western Sydney (with GWS Giants). They have yet to kick a ball in anger.

Nevertheless there are precedents for the arts sector and the sports sector to form an alliance … and there are strong precedents in Western Sydney.

In fact, the partnerships built with Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, The Penrith Regional Gallery, and The Australian Balletdelivered an array of benefits to the Penrith Panthers, the City of Penrith, and Western Sydney.

Both the MCA and Australian Ballet were fantastic partners.

The Australian Ballet delivered a free concert at Penrith Stadium in November 2010. They approached Panthers about this because they learned about the very innovative work we had done with the MCA and Penrith Regional Gallery. After the first meeting they were convinced they were in the right place and Penrith Stadium replaced Parramatta Stadium as the venue for the free concert.

Footy & Ballet @ Penrith Stadium

The C3 West project wasthe focus for the partnership between Panthers and the MCA. The project aimed at creating synergy by operating in the space where the worlds of commerce, creativity, & community intersect. The outcomes have been extraordinary and the project is the subject of a soon to be published book.

Back to opera and footy – in 2006 we also experimented with operatic drama opening Panthers footy game. A song made famous by one of the world’s great singers, Paul Robeson, was belted out pre-game by Sydney singer David Aston. The song was The Killing Song, wonderfully aggressive and powerful, eminently suited to football. Alas! The fans didn’t like it! It was a bit too bold for them … and the team lost.



Maybe Opera Australia would be well served to have a chat with the teams at the Panthers, the MCA and the Australian Ballet to guide them in their Western Sydney expedition.