CSU Bathurst is giving itself the ultimate pre-season test by taking part in this weekend’s Bathurst Panthers Knockout, the Mungoes will tackle the first division tournament.
The students will be tested against last season’s preliminary finalists and 2016 champions, Bathurst Panthers in the opening game of the tournament, a test CSU president Brad Rushby is excited for.
“It will be a really good run around just to test ourselves and see how we go. I think we can take a lot away from it as a team and as a club, comparing ourselves to this level of footy and taking that back in to New Era Cup,” he said.
“Playing Panthers will be very exciting. It’s just about trying to get a bit of a roll on, to play smart footy and hopefully get the win.”
Mungoes will be fielding a new look team from the one which played in last year’s New Era Cup final.
Rushby, Billy Dickinson and Jacob Watkin are the only players from the starting 13 who are back for the 2018 side.
Riley Scelly is returning for the Mungoes but only in a coaching capacity.
“We lost a lot of numbers from last year but we’ve recruited really well with a lot of new guys coming in,” Rushby said.
“We’ve had a few boys come up from Villages United, seeing as they’re out of the competition this year.
“There’s also a lot of good 18 and 19-year-olds coming in. It’s another young team but hopefully we can continue the success that we’ve had over the last two to three years.”
The Mungoes are the only New Era Cup team taking part in the first division draw this year but the competition’s clubs are no strangers to the event.
Villages United won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.
CSU has made the step up to the Bathurst Panthers Knockout after winning both the men’s and women’s draws at last year’s New Era Midwest Rugby League Knockout.
New mentor Scelly said there’s a lot to look forward to about Friday’s game.
“It’s probably the biggest challenge we can get, playing Panthers. Their first and second grade teams are strong every year,” he said.
“Panthers have had a few boys come across from Villages and we have as well so that will make it interesting.
“The thing with CSU is that we lose five to 10 players every year but gain five to 10, so we’re never fielding the same side.
“We’ve picked up some handy players like Izaac Scott from Forbes Magpies.
“There’s some big names who have left like Blake Dean, Tom McDevitt and Ben Thompson but we’ve still got a very good forward pack together.”
CSU and Panthers get the 2018 knockout underway from 5.30pm.