IT'S been a nine round wait but the Bathurst Panthers will finally have the chance to face another Group 11-based opponent in this Saturday's Peter McDonald Premiership meeting with Forbes Magpies.
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The Group crossover game brings together two teams level on the overall ladder and each within striking distance of their respective regional table leaders.
Panthers will hope to utilise the home ground advantage at Carrington Park against a quality opponent who they've never had the chance to face in a regular season competition before.
Bathurst Panthers player-coach Jake Betts still has a strong idea of what to expect from the Magpies, having played alongside some of Forbes' top talent at a representative level in the past.
"We're looking forward to this one, especially at home. We had a cross over game in round one but since then it's been business as usual against all of the Group 10 teams so we're keen for the challenge. We're equal on the overall ladder so it's an important game," he said.
"We'll get a good gauge on where we're at. They're a quality side. Cammo [Cameron Greenhalgh] is a great coach. I've had a fair bit to do with him through Western, and he'll have them fired up.
"I know a few of the boys there, like Nick Greenhalgh and Mitch Andrews who are both class footballers, and Mitch played country this year. He's a strong carrier of the ball and he's their biggest threat."
Panthers were at their clinical best across the first half of their recent 19-12 win over Orange Hawks, running out to a 12-0 lead at one stage, but lapses let the hosts find their way back into the game.
The Bathurst men had the defensive resilience to still come out on top at the end of the 80 minutes but those uncertain moments let Betts know that there's still some way to go for his side.
"We're poking along alright at this stage of the competition but we've got plenty of improvement left in us," he said.
"The early part of the year we were working stuff out and trying to gel and now we've worked out most of that. Willie and Noah are playing great football together and, in my opinion, Hudson's been the forgotten hero since he's come in. He's been massive for us.
"We're always looking to improve. We probably didn't play our best footy in that game against Hawks. We went well in the first half but then we started to go away from what was working well for us. We need to be playing at a better intensity for the full 80."
Peter McDonald Premiership kick-off will be at the earlier time of 1.45pm this Saturday.
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