When the Penrith Panthers come to Bathurst this weekend, it'll mean a little bit more to Charlie Staines.
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Staines is one of a number of Panthers players that hail from regional NSW, in particular the Central West.
A Forbes Magpies product and former Western Rams junior representative, Staines has played plenty of football in Bathurst and on Saturday he returns to Carrington Park, the same ground the reigning premiers won 28-16 against Manly in 2021.
With Bathurst being a lot closer to Forbes than Penrith (just a touch over two hours away by car), Staines is expecting a few of his friends and family members to make the trip over for the game.
"I think a few will make the trip up over [from Forbes]. It's not too far away," he said.
"A lot of people back home watch me on the big screen, so it's only a couple of hours away, so I'm sure there'll be a few there."
While no friends or family members have got in touch about tickets, he's expecting he might get a few calls in the days leading up to the match.
"Not yet actually. Probably a few more closer to the game," he said.
Staines, alongside teammates like Dylan Edwards (Bellingen-Dorrigo Magpies), Liam Martin (Temora Dragons) and captain Isaah Yeo (St John's Dubbo), grew up playing rugby league in the country.
Understandably, he relishes any opportunity he gets to play in regional NSW.
"It's always good. I've experienced a couple last year, so it's good to be back in Bathurst this year," he said.
"It's always good out there seeing the local fans out there."
Heading into the match, Panthers have won their opening two matches, the same record as Saturday's opponent Newcastle Knights, the only team ranked higher on the NRL ladder than the Penrith-based club.
Staines believes Panthers have been playing well so far, but said the club is far from its best.
"I thought we've gone alright. Obviously last week we dropped the ball more than we wanted to," he said.
"Other than that, we've put a few good things in place during the pre-season and I think it's starting to come out during our games.
"We're still slowly building towards our best. We're far from our best but I'm sure we can get there soon."
Saturday's match between Panthers and Knights kick-off at 3pm.
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