St Pat’s and Bathurst Panthers may both be in the mix for a Group 10 premier league finals appearance but it’s not the only competition where both clubs are making strides.
In fact, the Bathurst clubs are currently sitting inside the top three of the under 18s, reserve grade and league tag ladders.
There’s still half of the regular season to play but there’s already a strong chance that all eight Bathurst Group 10 teams could feature in the finals.
It could have been seen as a building year for the Panthers under 18s who feature a team heavily comprised of last year’s premiership-winning 16s squad.
Instead they’ve gone on to dominate the competition, dropping just a single game to sit on top of the ladder.
“The majority of them are in their first year so it’s good that those young kids have brought that form into under 18s,” Panthers president Dennis Comerford said.
“Our blokes are performing well against teams who are probably a bit older than them.
“Orange CYMS have a very good side as well. That will be a good test for our guys in the second half of the season, to try and claw one back on them.
“It’s great to kids with a great attitude like they do coming through as well.”
Panthers sole 20-16 loss to CYMS is an outlier in what has otherwise been a season of impressive wins.
The boys in black have kept their opponents scoreless on three occasions and are scoring at an average of just under 40 points a game.
Panthers (16) lead CYMS by two points but only a further two points away sits the Saints.
Pat’s succeeded where Panthers couldn’t last week, knocking over CYMS 36-16 in a result that bodes well for the Saints’ second half of the season.
Like Panthers, the Saints have received strong assistance from their former under 16s side heading into a new age division.
“We’ve got a good mix of 16, 17 and 18 year olds there. They’ve performed really well this season,” Chapman said.
“We struggled for numbers close to the start of the season but miraculously they turned up when we needed them.
“This is [Mark] ‘Chika’ Booth’s second year with the side. We had a handy under 16s team last year as well.
“In my eyes they’ve exceeded expectations and I’d love to see them go on and push for that top three finish at the end of the season.”
Pat’s are currently in a share of the first division lead with Orange Hawks.
The blue and white have done little wrong in 2018 after coming up one win short of last year’s title.
Saints won their first six matches and have dropped just a single game this year, to Cowra Magpies.
Chapman is excited to see the team in great form given their patchy preparation they’ve had through the season.
“We do have good depth,” he said.
“I’d like to suggest we have good numbers at training but due to work and other commitments we tend to struggle for those numbers. But come game day we seem to get those numbers on the field.
“There’s a great mix of experienced guys and players who are new to the club. They’re putting a lot of pressure on our first grade side.
“To only drop the one game at the half way mark of the season and to sit right towards the top of the table is very pleasing.”
Panthers didn’t start well in their first division redemption quest.
As minor premiers Panthers failed to make last year’s grand final and wanted to start their new season off on the right foot.
They did the complete opposite by losing their first three straight matches.
Things are beginning to look up for the Panthers who hit back with four straight wins going into the long weekend.
Comerford said it’s good to see the team cohesion come to the fore over the past couple of matches.
“We sit in third on 12 points, four points shy of co-leaders Hawks and St Pat’s and just a point clear of Workies,” he said.
“It was a really disappointing start to the season for our boys because we’ve always had a strong reserve grade side.
“We thought we might have been in for a bit of a long season but they won the next four games, really gelled together and they’ve played really well since.
“Hawks and St Pat’s are pretty strong so they’ll be a test for us, but if we can stay in the mix and stay in that top three it will look pretty good for the end of the season because that’s where you want to be.”
Death, taxes and Bathurst teams performing well in league tag.
It’s become a near certainty in Group 10 seasons that both Pat’s and Panthers will feature towards the top of the women’s competition and 2018 has been no different.
Pat’s (18 points) sit first and Panthers (13) are third, separated by Orange Hawks (14).
Blayney Bears and Lithgow Workies, both on 10 points, round out the top five.
Defending champions Saints aren’t just the sole unbeaten team in the league tag title race but they’re also the only unbeaten team left in Group 10.
“For some sides with that undefeated tag comes a lot of pressure but our girls have been in this position for a number of years now,” Chapman said.
“It wouldn’t upset me to see them drop a game to relieve that pressure but then again they’ve got the experience in the side to not let that tag worry them.
“I’m sure they’d be disappointed if they dropped any games. They’d love to go through the season undefeated.”
Panthers have been solid in their attempt to return to a grand final.
They missed out last year but with five wins from eight games – which includes a win over Hawks and a narrow two-point loss to Pat’s – Panthers are again looking like a danger side.
“Every since the inception of league tag us and St Pat’s have been strong. Over the last couple of years Hawks have come into the mix and so has Blayney for that matter,” Comerford said.
“Last week’s loss to Blayney was probably a wake up call for the girls, and wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for them.
“All in all we’re still going very well. St Pat’s are the tearaway side, there’s no doubt about that. The chances of catching them are slim but if get a few more wins we give ourselves a chance to finish in that top three at the end of the season.”