The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Tony Puletua is the new First Grade and club captain of the Penrith Panthers.
The appointment was announced last evening by General Manager Michael Leary and Coach John Lang.
Although born in Auckland, the towering second rower came up through Penrith?s junior ranks. He made his first grade debut in 1997 against the Western Reds in Perth.
Since then he has played a major role for the club both on and off the field. His partnership with fellow Kiwi, Joe Galuvao, was a major factor in the club winning the 2003 minor and major premierships and finishing third in 2004.
Tony is signed with Penrith until 2009.
?Tony is a natural leader, not only on the field, but off it,? John Lang said tonight. ?He?ll have everyone?s support.?
?He does a lot for our community as well,? Leary said. ?I think the team and the club are in good hands.?
Tony said he was really excited by the opportunity. "I'm looking forward to it - it's every first grader's dream.
"I see it as a challenge and all I can do is my best."
He doesn't believe that being a 60 or 70 minute player is a problem - "it's worked when I've captained the team in the past."