Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes has apologised to Panthers players after it emerged he had been filmed mocking their western Sydney roots during the Storm’s 2020 grand final celebrations.
Hughes can reportedly be seen in the vision making fun of Penrith players from Mount Druitt, while imitating some of the hand signals and celebrations of his grand final opponents.
The video was uploaded to Instagram stories on the night of the grand final before it was recorded by Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo and later shown to Penrith players as motivation.
Ciraldo reportedly told his players after showing the vision: “You need to protect where you come from.”
Panthers centre Stephen Crichton said himself and his teammates decided not to react to the video with hate, but rather with a motivation to stick up for themselves during their 10-6 preliminary final win over Melbourne last year.
“There was a short video, they (Storm players) were doing the signals and doing the dance,” Crichton told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“The boys didn’t want to use it as hate, where we came out and try to force things and give penalties away.
“We play hard because not many people from Mount Druitt get into this position like us.
“When you see videos like that, they can’t stick up for themselves, but those of us on the field can. We played for the area and our families and it was good we could come away with the win.
“It was mainly Jahrome Hughes, he was on the drink, like most of the first-grade boys after you win a grand final. We did the exact same thing when we won a grand final. But it was a bit of motivation for us heading into that prelim.”
Speaking ahead of the this weekend’s Magic Round clash between the two NRL premiership favourites, Hughes apologised for his antics, saying he intended no disrespect.
“There was no disrespect to them or anyone out in their area,” Hughes said.
“I’m quite disappointed as I’m not that kind of guy and I don’t want to be looked at like that.”
The recently re-signed Storm star said he couldn’t remember the incident and was therefore confused when he was reminded of it by Penrith during their finals encounter in 2021.
“They said a few things during the game to myself, but I didn’t really know the full extent. Obviously I can’t really remember what happened,” Hughes said.
“They made it pretty clear they were disappointed about it and so am I.
“Now I know what it is, I apologise – I didn’t mean any disrespect to them or their families or anything.”
The New Zealander said he was angry at himself for giving the Panthers additional motivation on their way to claiming the 2021 premiership.
“I’m obviously disappointed I gave them a bit of motivation because they ended up getting the chocolates,” the 27-year-old said.
Hughes said the rivalry between the two competition heavyweights stemmed from the recent success of both sides rather than any class divide.
“They’ve been the best team over the last couple of years and we’re sort of being up there as well,” he said.
“You always look at rivalries – two of the best teams going head to head and having good battles, and we’ve had a couple of good ones in the last couple years.
“I guess it’s shaping up to be a bit of a rivalry.”