Panthers dominant in abandoned season
Topping off what has been a great year for the Parkes Panthers, the side has gone undefeated to claim the Men’s Tier 2 minor premiership.
The reigning 2020 premiers won nine from nine in the regular season to claim it’s first Tier 2 minor premiership. However due to COVID restrictions, the finals were cancelled and no premiership winner would be announced.
While it’s a bitter blow for the team, coach Mitch Stubberfield couldn’t be prouder of his team’s effort.
“It’s a bit of a strange one. The boys put in all the effort so they can go and contest a grand final for it all to not happen,” he said.
“This year we were fortunate enough to get some quality players who came into town for work. This boosted our numbers, experience, and skill level which was really good and it was shown throughout the year.”
“All in all, though, the season has been pretty positive for us.”
Panthers Club President Jarryd Harrison echoed those statements, saying that the year had been a successful one for the club.
“It’s been a good year for the club on and off the track. There has been a lot of growth for the club moving forward,” he said.
“We had a lot of new sponsors jump on board. The funding that they supply helped to go towards our new playing kit and game day shirts. It was a great year for the club. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get to the finals before COVID came.”
Parkes were red hot all season long. Led by the competition’s leading goal kicker in Jonathan Morell (26 goals), and Braeden Snow (22), the side racked up an amazing 877 points in nine games. Defensively they were even better, only conceding 86 points all season.
“I thought we played some really good footy this year. Towards the end of the normal fixture we managed to spread some really good quality games together,” Stubberfield told AFL Central West.
I think we are a better drilled side compared to last year’s team. I also thought the team culture was a lot better this year.”
“Peter Webb was outstanding; he was our captain. He was one of our best defenders down the back flank. If the ball ever went down there, he was the first one to the footy.”
“I thought our new players Ryan Alexander and Ethan Morton were unreal. They come from the Mount Isa (AFL Mount Isa) league. They added another level of experience to our midfield. This allowed us to put some players who probably weren’t quite up to midfield out on the flanks. I think this helped them gain experience and improve their confidence.”
The club will now look to build on top of their recent success when they start their recruiting drive for next season. For Harrison, the main goal for the Panthers is to attract enough female players to build a women’s team.
“We would love to try and aim towards getting our female team back up and running,” he said.
“I’d like to think that the success of the men will help attract women to our club. The problem this year was getting the commitment from the female playing group. There are always challenges such as travel which made if difficult. The ones that were interested said they couldn’t play every game so obviously that would have affected the team.”
“Next season though we will be trying to advertise and attempting to get a female team up and running.”
Another goal that the club is keeping sights on is recruiting enough players to field both a Tier 1 and Tier 2 side. According to Harrison however, the team would need to have enough players to make it work.
“Moving into Tier 1 would be something we would look at down the track. The problem at the moment is all the Tier 1 teams that are playing have a Tier 2 side to fall back on. They have got roughly 50-60 players registered within the club. “
“At the moment we only have about 20 or so (31 players) registered and we only play 16 players on the field at a time. Which gives you six on the bench. This year we would have struggled to have four on the bench in each game so if we were to play Tier 1 this year, we would have really struggled with numbers. It’s something we are trying to strive towards, but we need to have a lot more players registered with the club to do that.”
“We will try to keep recruiting players with the aim of eventually becoming a Tier 1/Tier 2 team.”