TAKE a core of familiar faces, add a dash of Cowra flavour and a sprinkling of Blayney talent - that's the recipe that led the under 16 Bathurst Panthers to a Group 10 Junior Rugby League minor premiership.
It remains to be seen if the 2021 Group 10 JRL season will resume and Panthers get to play finals football or if the COVID-19 lockdown forces further play to be abandoned.
But what has already been seen is some brilliant football from the Shane Hastings coached Panthers 16s.
"We had five boys from Blayney come over and play for us and we also had a young fella from Cowra come over and play for us and that injection into the team, they've just excelled from there," Hastings said.
"Like our team has been successful year after year after year, but this year has just been outstanding.
"These boys really give it 110 percent every training session. I've got a squad of 26 boys and they turned up every single week, they never let me down, they were there every single week. The Blayney boys travelled over, the Cowra boy travelled over, they didn't miss a beat."
The core of Hastings' squad, three of whom have been team-mates since the under 6s level, has qualified for a finals series each season since joining the competitive ranks.
Like our team has been successful year after year after year, but this year has just been outstanding.Shane Hastings
This season the Panthers lost just two of 12 games on their way to claiming the minor premiership and they boasted the best attacking record of the six teams in their division.
Their victories included a 32-8 result against the Bloomfield Tigers - a group of players who have dominated in recent seasons.
It is a record that had the 16 Panthers in a position to play in their first grand final since under 12s level, but Hastings knows that chance may not come.
The Group 10 JRL board has stated that if lockdown extends beyond the current end date of September 10 - something that looks likely given the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the Central West - then unfortunately it would be season over.
"They know it's their last year in juniors so to make a grand final and win a grand final in our last year was our goal. So to come to this point, it's really heart breaking, it really is," Hastings said.
"It was a very outstanding run for the boys, all the hard work they did paid off.
"Bloomfield have been the benchmark for the last three years so for us to knock them off the top of the ladder, it's been a good achievement for the boys.
"They were really looking forward to maybe playing those Bloomfield guys in the grand final. It will be good if it ends up happening and the rest of the finals go ahead, but the way it's looking that's very unlikely I'd say."
Even if the season does not resume, the friendships and the growth within the playing group Hastings has witnessed has satisfied him.
"It's been outstanding to see these boys grow, that's the enjoyment, like we're all volunteers but that's why we do what we do," he said.
"To see them grow and become young men as well as young footballers ... the friendship they make, the camaraderie of it all, it's just outstanding. We love this sport, it brings them together, it really does and they make life time friendships out of it.
"If it is the worst case and it [season abandoned] ends up happening, we'll just push on for next season, I'll be back at the club and we'll keep doing what we're doing and thrive as a club."
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