"I'm coming home".
Those were the words of Jeremy Gordon on Friday afternoon after he put pen to paper with Bathurst Panthers, marking his return to the club after two Group 10 premier league seasons at Cowra.
While Gordon has spent time away from Panthers since his teenage years - he had two stints in Sydney, lined up for Bathurst St Pat's and also played in the 2014 grand final for Cowra - time and time again he has been lured back to be a man in black.
"I'm coming home. I'm a Panthers junior, so it is actually home," he said.
"It's a club I love, I'm Panthers through and through, everyone knows that. I started with Charlos when I was four, then I was Penguins, then Panthers - I've gone through the whole ranks.
"I started off with Panthers, I think my first first grade game was with them when I was 16 in 2003. I went to Sydney for four years then came back in 2007 and played again.
"Then I went to Sydney and came back to Panthers - they are definitely a club which always draws me back."
Gordon said he had 'a smile from ear-to-ear' as he confirmed his return to the Bathurst club for 2020.
But he admitted he was initially a little reluctant to make the switch to a Panthers side which will be chasing its third consecutive premiership next season.
It's a club I love, I'm Panthers through and through, everyone knows that.Bathurst Panthers' Jeremy Gordon
"It started at the pub, chatting to (captain-coach) Dougie (Hewitt). He said all the boys would welcome me if I wanted to come home if I thought it was time to come back," he explained.
"I sort of thought I didn't want to jump on their coat tails of two premiership wins and Doug said 'nah, nah, it's nothing like that, the boys want you back and you know that Panthers are always home for you'. So I'm back.
"I will get to play with all my mates again, that's another big factor too of coming home again - playing with your mates is one of the reasons you play for."
After playing for his junior club between 2015 and 2017, Gordon has spent the last two years with the Magpies. He was part of the Cowra side Panthers beat in the 2018 grand final under Hewitt.
He still looks back on that afternoon at Sid Kallas Oval when Panthers came from a 10-point deficit to clinch a 12-10 win with mixed emotions.
"It wasn't easy at all. I was upset that we lost, but I was also happy for the boys that they finally broke the drought," Gordon said.
"Two years before that we were one game off winning, one game shy, but the boys have kicked off the last couple of years."
When Gordon last played with Panthers it was under the guidance of Todd Barrow, so next season will mark his first as a member of Hewitt's side.
"I've know Dougie since he was eight-years-old with junior Panthers, so I have a lot of respect for him, and we are mates also away from footy," Gordon explained.
"So I am keen as to get back and play with Dougie and all the boys at Panthers actually. I think I've played with everyone who is there except for Willie Wright.
"He's a player I'm really looking forward to playing with, I've seen a lot of him play and he's a freak, I'm excited to be on the same field as him. He stuck it to us on finals day over here, so hopefully we can do that again next year on the same team.
"At the moment we really haven't discussed positions ... we'll discuss that in the new year. Probably fullback, maybe centres, wherever I fit into the team, that's all that matters to me."
As well as reuniting with former team-mates and getting the chance to combine with some different talents, the 33-year-old is looking forward to passing on some of his knowledge to the younger Panthers.
Given he won the Group 10 player of the year in 2016 during his last stint with Panthers he has plenty to teach, but he knows there is already plenty of skill within Hewitt's squad.
"I'll probably be the oldest in the squad which is a bit of a different thing for me, I was always the young bloke but I guess that's now switched," he said.
"I'll help wherever I can. I have been around the game for a fair while, so wherever I can help out with the young lads I'm happy to for sure.
"It's probably one of the better Panthers sides I've seen for years, it's one of the best actually.
"I played in the '07 grand final - that's how old I am - and I think this side is probably better than that one.
"You've got Dougie, Willie, the Betts boys, the Seagers, Siejka - it's pretty endless - Blake Lawson, there's strength all across the park."
Gordon's signing follows on from the news in late October star prop Josh Starling was making the switch from Oberon to Panthers.
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