THE Bathurst Panthers will be given a helping hand from NRL club the Penrith Panthers next month ahead of their bid to win back-to-back pre-season knockout crowns.
Penrith has offered players from the Bathurst club a chance to train at the multi-million dollar Panthers Rugby League Academy, which opened in March last year.
Not only will Bathurst Panthers be given access to the world-class facility, but trainers from the Penrith club will put them through a number of drills.
The offer came after Bathurst Panthers president Dennis Comerford had a casual conversation with Penrith Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher.
"It more or less came about because I wanted a sticky beak at the new academy,” Comerford said.
"A few years ago Dave Elvy used to take down a bunch of blokes in the pre-season to have a run with a couple of Penrith trainers. They basically did the same sort of drills they use in the NRL, it was like a gelling session before the start of the season.
“I was keen to have a tour of the new academy … the suggestion they came up with was how about we bring some blokes down there and see what we can organise.”
The visit will take place on February 4, at time when Penrith’s leading players will be busy contesting the Auckland Nines. That means the Bathurst club will have greater access to the academy’s facilities.
It also comes a week before the Bathurst Panthers attempt to defend their pre-season knockout title, the tournament having been moved forward from its regular March date.
"They will have a few of the trainers from the lower grades there for us. We will tour the academy down there and they will put our guys through a couple of training sessions as well,” Comerford said.
"It will be a good chance for the guys to have sessions under their belts with highly qualified trainers.
"It is open to any players at the moment. I can imagine that Todd [Barrow, premier league coach] will want as many first graders as possible to go, but for sure if the under 18s and reserve grade guys are interested, it is open to them as well.
"It is a really good opportunity for our blokes to be able to train together, but I think they will do it pretty tough.”
Meanwhile, Barrow is planning a big weekend on February 24-25, sending squads to both the Mudgee Nines and West Wyalong Knockout.
"It will be the first time in something like 12 years that we have gone to West Wyalong,” Comerford said. “I know Todd is pretty keen to give it crack again.”