23 June, 2023
Panthers 2013 legends watch-on; as home-side bag first season win
Castlereagh Rugby League - May 30, 2023
A healthy home crowd — and proud members of the
Gilgandra Panther’s premiership 2013 side celebrating
their 10-year anniversary — witnessed the 2023
Panthers take to McGrane Oval Saturday, May 27.
Going into battle against the Coonabarabran Unicorns, the Panthers were searching for their first win of the season, with things looking good in the opening minutes.
Shane Ritchie, after only five minutes of play, put a
grubber-kick behind the Unicorn defensive line with Ty
Sutherland pouncing on the bouncing ball to touchdown
out-wide to get the scoreboard ticking.
This, however, sparked the Unicorns into action and,
soon after, Anthony Harris bullocked his way over from
close-range. Nick Willoughby then converted from
wide-out to give the visitors a 6-4 lead.
From this point on, the Panthers enjoyed plenty of
possession and, at about the 15-minute mark, Brandon
Hammond split the “Coona” defence to score under the
posts and give himself an easy conversion, with the
Panthers now back in front, 10-6.
The Panthers then went on the attack from the restart
and, soon after, Shane Ritchie tried his luck again with
a kick close to the line. Ritchie was able to regather and
score, to make it 14-6 to the Panthers.
In more good news for the local side, with only three
minutes remaining in the first half, DJ Smith finishedoff
another Panther raid on the Coona line to score.
With the Panthers seemingly well in control, they
were again pressing the Coona line as the half-time
hooter was about to sound, but a wayward pass landed
in the hands of Coona halfback, Harry Reardon who
raced 90 metres to score.
Willoughby duly converted the try, and it was
“game-on” as both sides went to the sheds with the
Panthers leading 18-12.
Coona were first to score in the second stanza with a
converted try to Reardon to level the game up at 18-18
but, five minutes later, the Panthers pounced when big
Alex Sutherland proved too much for the Coona defence
to slam the ball over the white line.
DJ Smith converted, and the Panthers were back in
front 24-18; Ashley Hazelton then crashed-over soon
after to extend the Panthers lead and Smith’s conversion
made it 30-18.
The Unicorns refused to go away, however and, with
20 minutes remaining, Jack Ramage forced his way
over the line for the visitors.
Willoughby converted and Coona trailed 30-24. Two
minutes later, Nick Willoughby burst through some
ordinary Panther’s defence to race 60 metres to the line
and convert to even the scores up again at 30-30.
The Panther crowd came to life and tried to lift the
home side and, with nine minutes to go, captain, Luke
Ritchie gave a perfect pass to DJ Smith who toucheddown
under the sticks.
Smith’s conversion made it 36-30 and, with the
“reunion boys” making plenty of noise on the hill, it was
Smith who again finished-off another Panther’s raid
when he touched-down in canteen corner, much to the
delight of the home crowd.
Brandon Hammond converted from
wide-out and, as the siren sounded, the
Panthers posted a 42-30 victory with a
lot more confidence now heading into
the rest of the season.
The Panthers were once-again bestserved
by Kenny Johnson, who is enjoying
a great start to the season, along with
Ashley Hazelton who played his first
game for the year.
Young gun, Isaiah Gleadhill has also
been great off the bench for the Panthers,
and he continues to improve with every