THE Bathurst Panthers Group 10 Rugby League Knockout has its dates locked in for the upcoming season and there could potentially be an expanded draw on the cards for the 2022 edition.
The annual pre-season event is penned in for March 4 and 5 this year, and could bring teams from outside the Group 10 region into the mix.
There will be extra hunger among teams to get back into the swing of things after Group 10 went a second straight season without a finals series being played due to COVID-19.
And not many will be more keen than the host club who won the 2021 knockout grand final in dominant fashion with a 24-4 victory over Orange CYMS.
The home side have been a dominant force in recent editions of the event, recently picking up an uninterrupted treble of victories from 2016 through to 2018.
Panthers first grade manager Danny Dwyer said he'd like to see the competition expand its reach this year.
"Being a sanctioned event for Group 10 clubs you would think it's compulsory for teams in the group but we'll certainly open it up to Group 11 clubs to see if they're interested in competing," he said.
Panthers are also hoping to see a first grade and under 18s combined competition all run this year as part of the knockout carnival.
It would fill out a schedule that caters to many grades and ages of players, given that the under 21s competition is also making its return for another edition this pre-season.
"The 18s are normally run at Blayney but they're looking at running a reserve grade knockout, so we will slot in with the 18s, and I think that will work out nicely around that 21s comp as well," Dwyer said.
"Those boys will be pretty keen to play some footy so I think it's a smart move to go that way."
Dwyer said the knockout, regardless of which teams turn up to compete, is always an event worth getting exciting for.
"It's a great point to start the season off with," he said.
"Everyone looks forward to it after having no footy for a couple of months. Even though it comes five weeks before the start of the season I think a lot of people see it as being like a season launch.
"It gets everyone back together and it gets miles in the legs. It's only run over a limited time so it's a great way to get everyone back around one another and into their footy again."
Tuesday also marked the official start of the Panthers' pre-season, where they'll start their campaign towards trying to become the first winners of the Peter McDonald Premiership trophy.
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