BATHURST taking out this Sunday’s Group 10 premier league grand final wouldn’t just be the third premiership under the Panthers’ name, it would be the greatest of all the club’s titles so far.
That’s how former two-time Panthers premiership winner Dave Elvy sees things in the lead up to the club’s battle against the Cowra Magpies.
It’s big praise coming from the man who led the Panthers to four straight grand final appearances between 2004 and 2007, winning back-to-back crowns in the latter of those seasons.
Elvy said the Panthers of 2018 are a side who have continuously found ways to win against the odds.
“If they happen to win the grand final this year then I think it would be the biggest achievement ever for the club just because of what they’ve been through during the semis,” he said.
“Being involved in a lot of good wins it’s a big thing for me to say but I think it’s the truth.
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“I know when I was there we won a couple in a row but … with so many walking wounded this year they’ve had to really rely on some senior players and blokes digging in for each other.
“Missing out in the last five minutes of the last couple of preliminary finals means winning this would also be a big relief. Now that they’re there they may as well try to win it,” he laughed.
Elvy knows all about finals heartbreak and has empathised with the Panthers’ cause over the past couple of seasons.
The all-conquering minor premier Panthers side of 2004 came up short against the Mudgee Dragons and were then outclassed by Lithgow Workies in the grand final a year later.
An extra-time grand final triumph in 2006 ended the Panthers’ grand final woes and Elvy led the team to a dominant victory over the same opponent, Lithgow, the next season.
Following their premiership double Panthers’ success on the field was more patchy.
The club picked up two wooden spoons (2010 and 2012) during a tough rebuilding period.
Under the guidance of Todd Barrow the Panthers began their climb back towards being a leading side in the competition in 2016.
Despite being a force throughout the next two years they came up a game shy of the grand final, losing 22-20 to eventual champions Mudgee Dragons then going down 24-12 to the Oberon Tigers last season.
Now they’ve broken through that preliminary final hurdle.
“They went through a rebuild there at one stage and have gone close over the last couple of years but lost in the dying minutes,” Elvy said.
“It’s been a massive battle for them to get there this year with all the injuries they’ve had.
“They’ve got a reasonably good balance in the team but also the competition was just so even this year.
“Sometimes you get two or three really strong teams – and we’ve been amongst that the last couple of years – but this time there’s been little between them all.
“They’ve dug deep in recent weeks with Dougie injured and Brent Seager. They’re the walking wounded at the moment and that was a huge effort for them to get up against a huge team like Hawks.”
Panthers didn’t have the pre-season wraps on them when compared to the past few years.
As for Elvy? He had faith in the first grade side from the opening week.
“Looking at other squads I still believed that they were a top three side,” he said.
“This year it’s all come to plan, but they’re going over to play Cowra in Cowra and they haven’t won in over 20 years so there’s a lot on the line for both teams.”
Kick-off is 3pm.