Panthers lend local clubs a hand

PENRITH players Trent Waterhouse and Michael Gordon have answered the call from Group 2 juniors and will be star attractions at the Imperial Sportspower Gala Registration Day on Saturday, February 14.

District junior clubs were hoping an involvement with the NRL trial between the Rabbitohs and Panthers would spearhead a major recruitment drive for the upcoming season.

But when the kids were excluded from the lead-up games at BCU International Stadium, a meeting of the northern-based clubs decided to create a new joint venture at Advocate Park and as soon as the Panthers saw support was needed, they quickly volunteered to lend a hand.

Comets junior chief Mark Thomas said another two players (still to be decided) were likely to accompany Waterhouse and Gordon, team jumpers had been supplied as prizes and the Panthers merchandising van would visit the ground, packed with rugby league fan gear.

“The day wouldn't be possible without help from Penrith, we appreciate their commitment and look forward to a mutually-rewarding day for all Coffs Coast parties,” he said.

Booths will be set up for youngsters wishing to register with the Coffs Harbour, Sawtell and Orara Valley clubs.

But a special table would also be set up to handle enquiries about signing up for the Woolgoolga, Bellingen, Nambucca Heads, Bowraville, Smithtown and Kempsey clubs with contact details taken and relayed to the secretary of the club the player is interested in joining.

“All the clubs will still be holding their normal registration days but this special event has been created as a day of fun and one that a lot of happy junior league kids won't forget in a hurry,” Thomas added.

“Sponsors like Imperial Sportspower and Hungry Jacks have come on board with lots of free stuff, lots of games have been planned and the Panther players said they can't wait to be involved.

“I believe Trent (Waterhouse) put his hand up first to ask if he could be included which is a fantastic thing for an NRL player to do.”

Running from 10.00am until 2.00pm, the Gala Day will feature rides, face painting and a jumping castle, autograph sessions and a heap of footy games involving the Panthers.

According to local junior officials, being shunned by the NRL trial organisers may turn out to be an unforseen blessing now that ideas are being barnstormed as to how the joint venture may be taken Group-wide.

“Since it happened there's been nothing but positive signs with everybody determined to make something happen,” Thomas said.

“At the first planning meeting held by the clubs we noticed the ideas starting to flow and I started to think 'how good is this' that so many have been motivated.

“Clubs are sharing and having a bit of fun with each other and long term, that means great things for the kids.”

Group 2 senior management have expressed support for the Gala Day with chief administrator Jim Anderson and registrar Peter O'Grady both applauding the initiative.

“The idea to have an information table to assist visitors from outside the Coffs area is a great idea,” O'Grady said.

“I think this is going to offer a great deal in the future to local footy.”

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