Panthers president Dennis Comerford says his club will fight to maintain hosting rights of the Bathurst Knockout after Group 10 officials revealed a bid to share the annual event was receiving support amongst the Group.
The 2017 knockout has been moved from this weekend to kick-off on Friday, March 24, after some clubs expressed concerns around the heat in early February and the timing of the carnival.
Group 10 director Peter McDonald confirmed the push back to March and revealed a movement to share the hosting rights of the tournament was receiving a “groundswell” of support.
The movement stems from the belief the tournament gives Bathurst Panthers a significant financial boost ahead of the regular season.
McDonald said the Group’s board of directors would have a discussion about the possibility of taking over the event and sharing it around the nine clubs.
But Comerford said Panthers weren’t prepared to let over 30 years of tradition fall by the way side, not without a fight.
“We’d love to continue to host it. It’s a tradition we have upheld since the club’s Penguins days for 30-odd years,” Comerford said.
“The concept has changed over the years too. Previously unbeatable teams from Newcastle and Sydney would come up, but being Group 10 clubs only the prizemoney stays in the group.
“The Panthers club puts up all of the prizemoney as well.”
The Bathurst Knockout was originally scheduled to kick-off on February 11 after the NRL informed Bathurst council its Penrith Panthers game would likely be the end of March.
But the NRL draw revealed Penrith will take on Canberra on the June 10, meaning the six weeks council needs to prepare the ground to be of NRL standard doesn’t need to be so soon in the season.
Comerford said the club was happy to host the Bathurst Knockout in March.
The long-time Panthers boss added with pre-season events in the form of the Mudgee Nines and the Group 10 under 18s carnival, at Blayney this season, he couldn’t fathom why Panthers were being challenged as host of the club’s own knockout.
He also hit back at comments from Blayney Bears president Adam Hornby hinting the Panthers club made “tens of thousands (of dollars) from the NRL games and knockout carnivals”.
“I don’t know where he got his figures from. Panthers doesn’t have anything to do with the NRL game,” Comerford corrected.
“We get to run a canteen, but so does St Pat’s seniors and juniors, Villages, CSU and Oberon is invited in as well.”