Handling pressure and avoiding complacency – those are two areas that Doug Hewitt plans to address in his new role as coach of Bathurst Panthers’ premier league outfit.
The talented halfback will take over from Todd Barrow after he guided the Panthers to the preliminary final stage the last two seasons.
Under Barrow the Panthers produced some impressive football and its playing roster included some of Group 10’s top performers.
Yet being unable to take that next step and earn a grand final appearance is something that is nagging at the Panthers – Hewitt included.
“I wasn’t here the first year when they got close, but I got the gist off it off the boys,” he said.
“This year, to be front-runners for most of the year with Orange CYMS and Oberon right on our heels, everything sort of looked in place.
“But then just a couple of crucial injuries to a couple of crucial parts of our team towards the end of the season sort of hurt us a fair bit and it all went down hill.
“But hopefully we can take that next step next year.”
One thing Hewitt thinks Panthers must do if they wish to reach the grand final for the first time since 2007 is not take things for granted. The play-maker wants to drum into his squad that each win must be earned and that improvement must always be sought.
“We can’t get complacent, we can’t say ‘well we’ve gone close two years and that’s unreal and hopefully we’ll get close again’. We’ve just got to put it in our minds that we need to be better next year,” he said.
“I think everyone knows, including the boys in our team, that a lot of the other teams have taken another step. So it’s going to be up to us to step with them.”
With Orange CYMS to start as defending premiers, 2017 runners-up Oberon signing some boom recruits and Bathurst St Pat’s also bolstering its ranks, the competition for a grand final spot next season is likely to be intense.
It also means the favourites tag won’t be placed on Panthers, as it was for much of 2017. That will be Oberon’s.
“I think that was a lot of the case this year, we did have that pressure put on us straight away. I think having that pressure put on you makes the teams you play take that next step up every time they verse you,” he said.
“I think next year that sort of pressure will be on the likes of Oberon and CYMS. They’ve already proven that they can handle the pressure and both go well under it.
“I don’t think we will fly too low under the radar, but I don’t think we will be put up on that pedestal next year.
“I think we can slow some of those teams who are going to be considered the frontrunners next year and if we can do that throughout the season, it just builds up that more confidence heading into those final games.”
Hewitt plans for Panthers to attend both the West Wyalong Knockout and Mudgee Nines on the same weekend in 2018 as they did this year.
They will contest their own pre-season knockout, while the coach also wants to organise another trial.