WHEN Bathurst Panthers lost back-to-back Group 10 premier league grand final qualifiers by two points this September, it was a tough blow for the players to take.
But it also served to make Panthers more hungry to return and find success in 2017.
Panthers’ bid to win a sixth top grade Group 10 decider has already begun with the signing of two talented forwards last week.
Former Panther and Western Rams representative Simon Osborne will line up as a prop, while Garrett Field, who previously won a Group 10 crown with Orange CYMS, will play in the second row.
Panthers president Dennis Comerford feels the addition of that pair will make an already talented playing squad even more formidable.
“Even without those two blokes, this year we gave it a pretty good shake without them. Having them there, well, I think that we’d have to be a little bit more confident than we were this year,” he said.
“We are certainly out there to give it a fair crack.
“I haven’t really seen Garrett play, but certainly with Ozzie, he has always been a big, strong, hard player. He’s an asset in any team you put him in.
“I know playing against him the last two years, when he played for CYMS, he basically ran straight over the top of some of our smaller blokes. It is going to be good having him with us rather than against us.”
Osborne was a member of the CYMS side which beat Panthers 22-20 in the first grand final qualifier this year.
Panthers had another shot at reaching the decider, but went down by the same score to eventual premiers the Mudgee Dragons in the preliminary final.
While proud to have gone so close to a grand final appearance, missing out stung.
“From a team perspective, I suppose the boys were a little bit disappointed this year that they didn’t go that one step further,” Comerford said.
“Especially because in both of our last two finals, against CYMS it was in the last 40 seconds that they got us, it had been tight all the way. It was a similar story against Mudgee – they scored the winning try in about the last two minutes.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a grand final, we were hoping this year was the year we broke that drought, but it wasn’t to be.
“The last time we won a grand final was 2007, the boys are planning a grand final reunion next year, so let’s hope we can make the grand final and bring the big trophy back to Bathurst.
“There’s no point being there if you are not there to win it, you have got to give it every shot you can – there’s no doubt about that.”
Panthers won the 2007 grand final 24-4 over Lithgow.