HE'S not sure what number will be on his back in season 2021, but for Claude Gordon the important thing is that the jumper he'll have on is a Bathurst Panthers one.
When Gordon left the Group 10 club after spending seasons 2016 and 2017 steering them from five-eighth, he declared Panthers the "best bush footy club" he had played for.
Considering just how many bush footy clubs Gordon had played for - Dubbo CYMS, Dubbo Macquarie, Narromine, Oberon and Orange CYMS - it was a statement which spoke volumes.
So when his work circumstances changed and Gordon was looking for a new club, there was a clear choice.
"It was around work more than anything, but in saying that, I was probably never going to play for anyone else, I knew I'd go back to Panthers," Gordon, who played for Group 11's Dubbo CYMS in last season's Presidents Cup competition, said.
After leaving Panthers, Gordon was player-coach for Dubbo Westside, played 2019 in Group 10 as a Cowra Magpie, then returned to former club Dubbo CYMS.
But now he's back into pre-season training with the Bathurst club, Gordon said it was as he'd never left.
"It is four seasons ago, but it only feels like yesterday that I left. The boys there have welcomed me back with open arms," he said.
"It's good, I'm loving it."
"I always enjoyed my time there, so it's good to be back around the club, like they're all a bunch of good blokes so it makes it easier to show up, put in and have a good crack at training.
"There's a lot of boys still there from '16 and '17, a lot of blokes that I consider close mates too."
While Gordon previously played as five-eighth for Panthers and wore both six and seven for Dubbo CYMS last season, he's unsure just what role he will fill in 2021. The men in black have won back-to-back Group 10 premier league titles with Willie Wright and coach Doug Hewitt in the halves.
But Gordon is happy to play whatever role coach Hewitt gives him.
"It really don't know what Doug is going to do, I wouldn't like to be Doug anyways in these circumstances, he'll have a headache in round one trying to figure out who is playing where," he said.
"I'm just happy to play my role, whether Dougie plays me in the 14 jersey, or the number six jersey, I don't know, I might even get a crack at the number 13 jersey. I don't know 100 percent, whatever Dougie wants I'll play my part for the team."
While Gordon will not line up for the Panthers at this Saturday's Bathurst 9s tournament he joked: "As it gets closer I'll probably start getting itchy feet. I've said I'm not going to play, but who knows?".
For the time being he'll keep pushing himself at pre-season training and preparing with a Panthers playing group which is intent on claiming a third consecutive premiership.
"It's been tough, geeze it's been tough, but it's good, it feels good," he said.
"We've been doing mainly fitness, but in between we've been doing a bit of skills and that, so we're doing that under fatigue. Whatever balls we drop, they're the penalties at the end of it, so you can't get away with short-cutting or making mistakes at training even.
"Because Dougie has so much happening outside footy, I don't think he'd come back half-hearted, he's there to win.
"He's going hard at training and all the boys are really having a crack too. It makes it a lot easier when everyone is on the same page as each other - show up, dig in, have a crack and get ready to try and win another premiership."