THE path towards a date for the Bathurst Panthers Rugby League Knockout was a bumpy one but club president Dennis Comerford believes the wait will only make everyone hungrier for a slice of rugby league action.
The announcement of the March 30 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers threw a spanner in the works for the Bathurst club, which needed to find an alternate date.
After negotiations and proposals through the off-season Bathurst Panthers arrived at an April 5 to 7 date, allowing them to still make use of Carrington Park following the NRL clash.
The knockout technically won’t be a pre-season fixture for Bathurst Panthers and Blayney Bears who are scheduled to play their Group 10 premier league opener as a curtain raiser for the NRL game.
The remainder of the opening round premier league matches will be played on the following Sunday, April 14.
One of the big issues for Comerford and the Panthers board while trying to organise a knockout date was trying to work around other pre-season events, such as the Charity Shield and Nines tournament in Mudgee.
“Council need somewhere between four to six weeks to get the ground ready for the NRL game … and with the announcement of March 30 we knew we weren’t getting on the ground from mid-February onwards,” he said.
“We put forward what we thought were reasonable dates but you have to take into consideration other events. We had to work around those.
“This would be around the 35th year of the knockout so we certainly want to keep that tradition going. We figured the only opportunity we had to hold the knockout was after the NRL game.
“The knockout will probably help us with match fitness … and it gets all clubs together at the one venue and allows coaches to have a look at other teams, even though it is a shortened version of the game.”
Panthers are on the prowl for their fourth consecutive victory at their own pre-season tournament.
They claimed the title in 2018 after Doug Hewitt’s late try sealed an 8-4 win over Oberon Tigers.
Entering the knockout as the defending Group 10 premier league champions will add an extra bit of pressure on the men in black.
Panthers haven’t just been busy organising dates for football, they’ve toiled hard to earn the signatures of new players.
Over the last fortnight the club have welcomed both Kevin Murray and Max Gay to the team.
Murray boasts experience in Sydney’s A Grade competition for Moore Park and could fill the void in the centres left by Jye Barrow.
Gay is fresh off captaining the Yanco Warmoon Hawks to an under 18s premiership.