PENRITH boss Phil Gould says the club's announcement of a new major sponsor serves as proof the direction the revamped club has chosen to take is the right one.
The Panthers have concentrated on reconnecting with the community since Gould took over as the general manager in May. Last night the club announced OAK flavoured milk would appear on its jumper as the new major corporate partner.
It is understood the deal is worth $2.7 million over three years, but the club hopes the association extends way beyond that period.
''We want Penrith to stand for a lot of things important to the community out here,'' Gould said last night. ''And one of those things is to provide young kids with every chance to be involved in rugby league in the area.
''We've got some pretty grand plans for the next few years.
''The Parmalat company that produces OAK makes a lot of dairy-based products, and it is obviously important for them to have a good association with families, and kids.
''We brought their people in to see our plans for the future, and they liked where we were going with that.
''I'm determined to make the Penrith Panthers a huge part of the community, and to use rugby league as a platform to help make people's lives better, and more fun. Our community program is getting the club involved with the people in a number of ways.''
Gould said Penrith's commercial manager, Phil Moss, had been heavily responsible for putting the OAK deal together.
''Phil worked on it for a month,'' Gould said. ''We'd been told OAK might be interested in doing something, and it went from there. Phil handled 90 per cent of it - I just came in at the death. OAK sees Penrith and rugby league as a great fit for their brand.
''We had a very long association with Sanyo as our major sponsor, and after that ended I was always very confident we would pick up another strong backer. That has now happened, and we can get on with the season which is not far off now.''
Gould said he couldn't be happier with the effect Ivan Cleary has had on the club since being appointed as Penrith coach. ''I wanted someone to come in and put the football staff together and go from there, without my having to be involved in that,'' Gould said. ''Ivan has done a fantastic job looking after the football program. My job is working on the other side of the business.''