An Oberon side battling the yips. A Panthers team in form. A returning Luke Branighan.
Anyone with a half-decent memory is surely battling a case of deja vu ahead of Sunday’s Group 10 clash between the Oberon Tigers and Bathurst Panthers.
A little under 12 months ago that exact recipe resulted in Oberon stunning Panthers in the opening week of the semi-finals.
With Branighan returning from injury, the veteran half helped turn around a 54-4 result in the final round by orchestrating a 20-16 victory in the 2017 qualifying semi-final.
The Tigers ultimately went on to eliminate Panthers in the third week of the finals, too.
And while Sunday’s clash isn’t finals football, there’s still plenty on the line for both teams as Oberon looks to get a grip on a top five spot after a shaky start to the season and Panthers aims to build on a great, last-start 24-22 victory over premiers CYMS.
What will that battling Oberon-in-form Panthers-returning Branighan equation dish up at Oberon Sportsground on Sunday?
Redemption, if you ask Panthers coach Doug Hewitt.
“We want to make up for what happened last year,” the determined halfback said.
“We know what we’re going to get out at Oberon, once the crowd gets behind them they lift and we need to be ready for that.
“We were out-enthused and out-muscled in that game last year and we don’t want that to happen again.”
Hewitt’s Panthers have defied a huge gulf in experience this season to sit second on the ladder after six rounds.
Hewitt says that has a lot to do with his side’s enthusiasm – and not wanting to let each other down, particularly defensively.
Panthers boast the second best defence in the competition: “so far our it’s been unreal,” Hewitt added.