THE year is 2015.
TONY Abbott is prime minister (but not for much longer), Mike Baird is premier and it's the second year of Bathurst Regional Council's deal with the Penrith Panthers to bring an NRL game a year to town.
After the euphoria of year one, when 8800 people watched the Cronulla Sharks beat the Panthers in a thriller, Bathurst has been given the much more underwhelming Gold Coast Titans - the newest side in the competition.
The game is played in mid-March, late afternoon. A small crowd of just over 6200 turns up to see the Titans comprehensively defeated 40-0 in bright sunshine.
Walking out of the ground that day, more than one person must have wondered about the long-term future of the Bathurst game.
Fast forward to 2019, however, and there is no doubt this city has made the big league.
Though no-one would have known it at the time, the Titans game represented the low point of the deal.
The crowds were bigger for the Canberra Raiders in 2016 and 2017 and the North Queensland Cowboys drew a then-record turnout of just under 10,300 when they played last year.
That crowd was eclipsed by the almost 11,000 people who packed Carrington on Saturday night to see the Panthers take on Melbourne.
(The game, unfortunately, wasn't competitive in the second half, but it was only 8-2 at halftime and still a contest at that stage.)
Getting the Storm this year - perennial finalists, regular grand finalists - proves the esteem in which the Bathurst game is held.
Though there were fears during the early days of the deal that Bathurst might only get the lesser lights of the NRL competition, the city has now hosted two future Immortals - Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith - in the past two years.
Cities such as Tamworth and Mudgee have since secured their own NRL games, but we in Bathurst can say that we were there first.
We took a punt, we learnt some lessons in the early days and our NRL game is now an established part of our calendar.
To see the thousands of fans packed into Carrington Park on Saturday night to see the competition's benchmark side go about its business was to be reminded of how far this event has come in the past few years.
We can't wait to see who runs out on to Carrington next year.