Australian media are speculating that jailed New Zealand rugby league star Russell Packer could be handed an NRL lifeline by Ivan Cleary's Penrith Panthers.
Packer was initially handed a fixed-term two-year jail sentence in Australia after pleading guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm from an altercation in Sydney last September.
He appealed the severity of the sentence and won a 12-month parole period. That will potentially free him on January 6 and, unless he's deported, raises the prospect of returning to the NRL if the competition's bosses see fit.
The 24-year-old was set to play for the Newcastle Knights after signing a three-year deal to leave the Warriors but he never got to take the field.
The Daily Telegraph suggested today that Newcastle had been monitoring Packer's situation without giving away any indications of bringing him back into favour.
But the paper, in its speculative "Sport Confidential" column, said Packer's strong links to Cleary may offer him some hope.
Cleary gave Packer an NRL start at the Warriors in 2008 and is looking for propping talent to replace the departing Tim Grant next season.
Cleary hasn't been shy to attract New Zealand players to Sydney's western suburbs, luring Elijah Taylor and Lewis Brown away from the Warriors.
Former Warriors players Jeremy Latimore and Isaac John are also on the Panthers' books.
Cleary's challenge is to convince Panthers boss Phil Gould of Packer's worthiness for rehabilitation on the footy field.
The paper claims Cleary has raised the issue with Gould who is "yet to be convinced".
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