BATHURST Panthers’ Group 10 first division side will be flying the flag for the club in Sunday’s grand final action at Wade Park as they hope to bring down minor premiers Orange CYMS in their own backyard.
The match is a repeat of last year’s first division decider but the Bathurst team will want the result to turn out differently this time around.
A win for the Bathurst club will add to their superb run of results in reserve grade since the turn of the century. In that time Panthers have won the title on seven occasions, most recently in 2013.
However, this season didn’t start out in fine fashion for men in black who went winless in their opening month.
“After five rounds we were in dead last,” Panthers coach Mick Wicks said.
“But we not only stuck together as a team but as a club as well. Everyone got behind us.”
Since then Panthers have embarked on one of the competition’s most impressive turnarounds across any grade, winning all nine of their remaining regular season matches to finish the year in third.
They're such a strong side. They were minor premiers for a reason. They’ve got some strong forwards and some very crafty halves."
Panthers won both their post-season matches to date – including a highly entertaining 22-19 qualifying semi-final win over cross-city rivals St Pat’s – meaning they will be aiming for a 12th successive victory to complete a wonderful comeback tale.
The Bathurst club have already knocked CYMS over in the post-season, with an improved second half taking them to a 32-18 win in the major semi-final on the very same ground, and the Panthers will look to make it happen again.
Wicks said his side need to apply themselves from the opening minute to avoid the early trouble of that semi-final clash with CYMS.
“We were down 18-16 at half-time but we managed to turn things around,” he said.
“We have to get going from the opening whistle, and our bench need to be ready as well.”
Prior to the major semi-final Panthers and CYMS exchanged wins.
CYMS drew first blood with a 30-14 win back in May while an improved Panthers side turned up later in the season to record a convincing 42-22 success.
Wicks has stressed the importance of not getting overconfident after his team’s major semi-final triumph over the green and golds.
“They're such a strong side. They were minor premiers for a reason. They’ve got some strong forwards and some very crafty halves,” he said.
“We probably played one of our stronger games of the season in that semi-final while from all reports they had an off day.”
Panthers came close to having three teams represented on grand final day but their premier league and ladies league tag sides were narrowly beaten.
Kick-off between Panthers and CYMS is 12.30pm at Wade Park.