PLAYING hard for your mates – Blake Lawson believes that has been the key in Bathurst Panthers reaching Sunday’s Group 10 premier league grand final and could just be what gets them over the line against Cowra.
Like many in this year’s squad, Lawson is a Panthers junior who has gone on to be a mainstay in the club’s premier league side.
The hard running, strong-tackling centre has had his share of finals disappointment – Panthers have fallen desperately short of the decider the past two years.
But having already survived sudden death matches in this year’s finals tilt against Oberon, defending premiers CYMS and Hawks, Lawson feels Panthers can get the job done on Sunday.
“I believe we are ready for this, I don’t believe we’ve played our grand final already. I think we are really just starting to hit our straps,” he said.
“People doubted us at the start of the year, but we just kept playing for each other and kept changing people’s opinions.
“We want to go out there on Sunday and prove everyone wrong again.
“Everyone is really keen, we’ve only got one player with us who has played in a [premier league] grand final before in Trent Hotham.”
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While Hotham might be the sole player with previous premier league grand final experience, there are plenty of Panthers who know about playing in deciders.
The likes of Lawson, captain Doug Hewitt, Jack Siejka, Andrew Mendes, Nick Loader and Jedd Betts all found success as Panthers juniors. The bonds they formed all those years ago are even stronger now.
“A lot of us all played juniors together, we were only a couple of years apart, so we are a pretty close team. That is something we’ve really prided ourselves on, especially at the start of the pre-season when we lost a handful of blokes,” Lawson said.
“We actually lost about five blokes to Cowra, so it feels a bit like a movie script to be honest. At the start of the year if you had talked about us in a grand final people would’ve said ‘No way’.
“But we’ve stuck together and we’ve been close, it’s the closest team I’ve ever been part of. That’s why we are where we are at the moment.
“I’m year below Dougie, but I played a couple with them. I won 14s and 16s in my own age group, Bettsy played with me in 16s and I lost a grand final in 18s with Bettsy and Nick Loader, a whole lot of the boys.
“The last grand final I played in was that one in 18s, we didn’t get the win in that one when we probably should’ve.”
Sunday’s grand final at Sid Kallas Oval will kick-off at 3pm.