“Football’s a funny thing”.
There’s no doubt Bathurst Panthers enter Sunday’s Group 10 under-18 grand final as red-hot favourites after a bumper season, but using a tried and true cliche coach John Fearnley warned his side against cockiness.
He, like so many coaches and players before him, said his side can’t afford to overawed on the big stage, or all their hard work will be undone.
“It’s been a really good year but ... it’s all about what you do on grand final day,” Fearnley said, with Sunday’s decider a rematch of the major semi-final a fortnight ago, which Panthers won 26-14.
When we’ve got three sides playing in grand finals we want to win them all, and first grade takes priority (for selections).Panthers coach John Fearnley
“CYMS have picked up some momentum. It was a tough game at Cowra. Blayney have been on a roll so they’ll come into the grand final with confidence (after beating the Bears in the preliminary final).
“They’ve been one of the form clubs over the past few years, especially in under 18s. These two teams have a fair bit of history and there’s not a lot between the two sides.
“Both sides have very strong forward packs, and that’s where finals football is won.”
Panthers do have one significant change though and it comes in that forward pack, with workhorse bookend Luke Bain being lifted to premier league this weekend.
Fearnley, naturally, congratulated his young prop and while disappointed he won’t have his services, he conceded the priority has to be giving the top grade its best chance.
“We’ve made the decision he’ll only play first grade,” he said.
“Luke’s been a big part of our side but when we’ve got three sides playing in grand finals we want to win them all, and first grade takes priority.”
The under-18 game kicks off from 11.30am, following both league tag deciders.
- BATHURST PANTHERS: 1 John Bird, 2 Matt Cole, 3 Finlay Grabham, 4 Mackenzie Atkins, 5 Cody Craib, 6 Noah Griffiths, 7 Dylan Miles, 8 Cooper Mcdaid, 9 Elijah Sharwood, 10 Brad Fearnley, 11 Nic Barlow, 12 Zac Hunt, 13 Nathan Ward; Bench: 14 Matt Ellsmore, 15 Hunter Siejka, 16 Koen Gillespie, 19 Josh Payne, 20 Ty-Lee Simmonds, 21 Braydon Burke, 22 Tyrone Locke, 23 Blaze Piper-Hurst, 25 Ty Siaksioni