If anyone wants to know what a genuine commitment to bush footy looks like, then look no further than what the Panthers are doing in New South Wales’ Western Region.
Following on from the Panthers’ existing commitment to take games to Bathurst for the next decade, the club are now expanding their investment even further, with plans to field Panthers-branded teams in the Western Region championships.
According to SMH, the Panthers’ plan includes the establishment of rugby league academies in Bathurst, Dubbo and Forbes, providing local players with a genuine pathway to top flight football without having to relocate at a young age.
“Philosophically, we’ve decided that if the kids can’t come to us, we’ll go out to where the kids are,” said Panthers high-performance manager Matt Cameron.
“We feel we’ve put together a blueprint that the CRL could potentially take to other NRL clubs.”
CRL official Bert Lowrie agreed.
“The model they’ve got will be the blueprint for all regions,” Lowrie said. “In the Penrith model, they’re coaching our coaches; they’re working with our sports trainers; they’re helping to prepare our 16s and 18s for our championships; and, underneath that, they work with our 14s and 15s as well. It all just flows.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make a genuine commitment to rugby league in the bush.
We genuinely hope that other clubs decide to piggy-back off the Panthers’ good work, and begin making similar investments throughout the bush.