THEY didn't get the chance to make it back-to-back Group 10 Junior Rugby League premierships, but Bathurst Panthers under 12s still showed the qualities of a champion team in 2021.
Late last week Group 10 Junior Rugby League officials were forced to abandon the remainder of the season due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.
It meant the under 12 Panthers did not get the chance to play in the major semi-final against Orange CYMS Green, a game which offered the victor a place in the grand final.
Playing in, and winning, the grand final was the goal for the Panthers side, many of whom had been been crowned undefeated premiers in 2020 as under 11s.
Things were a little tougher for the Zarlia Griffiths coached side this season, but she was just as pleased with the efforts of her young Panthers.
"I'm very proud of how they turned up after what they did last year, they did it again this year, well they were second [in the minor premiership], but they played to their level," she said.
"It's definitely rewarding to coach them."
The Panthers only lost twice in the regular season to earn a spot in the major semi-final, but there they faced the Cowra outfit that had inflicted those two defeats.
However, Griffiths' side showed the hard work they had put into improving their game to win that pressure semi-final 12-4.
They tackled hard, they ran with determination, they created in attack and they supported each other in everything they did.
"For sure they improved, that was my main objective for this year, just to improve on a couple of little things as they are now starting to make rep sides," Griffiths said.
"I was just trying to improve them overall, their ball-skills, their tackling, just all the basics. I wanted to get it right at this younger stage rather than them having to work on those things when they're older."
Though that semi-final win is where the season ended for Panthers, for Griffiths it was definitely a case of finishing on a positive.
"I think not beating them in the normal round games, I think it was even sweeter to beat them in a semi-final when they would've thought they'd beat us," she said.
"I think to win a game like that, in the circumstances that it was, only just coming away with it, I think it was like a premiership winning game in a way."
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