Easts’ Scott McIntyre fends off Across the Waves’ Cody Faulkner in the rugby league season opener at the Brothers Sports Ground.
Easts’ Scott McIntyre fends off Across the Waves’ Cody Faulkner in the rugby league season opener at the Brothers Sports Ground. Max Fleet

Panthers heading into the unknown

WESTS coach Mick Laybutt admits that lack of match practice could be a problem when they meet hosts Waves Tigers in the 4BU/Hitz FM A-grade premiership tomorrow.

The Panthers had the first-round bye last week when the 12-man Tigers went down to Easts 40-22 and their coach Brian Groves is wary of the Wests team.

Wests have lost two of their stars in Josh Tanner and Reuben Baillie, to Gladstone and Brothers respectively, but Laybutt is pleased with the preparation of his youthful team.

"We've got the two Fagan boys, Joel and Brodie, James Prichard, Hayden Priestley, Ian Els and Karl Johnson from last year's under-18s, and we've also got some experience with the likes of Leon Baldry, Terry Franks and the 'old fella' Corey Tanna," Laybutt said.

"I'm also expecting big things from Chris Rose, who has come over to us from Brothers and will have a crack at fullback, and Willie Nagas is back home and could pop up anywhere in the backline, but will have a run in the centres this weekend.

"I'm slightly confident but not having a game under our belt, we might be a bit slow out of the blocks. But I expect a big effort from the boys."

Groves described the Tigers' performance against the Magpies as a good first effort.

"Basically the young boys coming through were all really good. Nathan Jones was player of the match but all put their hand up once young Broomy (Anthony Broome) was sent off," Groves said.

"The whole 16 players put their hand up and did well to hold a team of that calibre to 40-22 in 60 minutes. It was a really good effort because no points were scored in the first 20 minutes."

Groves said he had lost fullback Peter McDougall for two weeks with concussion but the Tigers would be bolstered with five quality players coming into the team.

"Marshal Cassady will make his comeback after playing last year in Cairns. He has bulked up and is still pretty quick, and I've got a flyer back into town at fullback by the name of Richard Saunders, the cousin of Dennis Saunders who has re-signed but is still injured," he said.

"Also, I've got a couple of big forwards back, which will help - Daniel Unwin, Daniel Finter and Gabriel Little, who will come off the bench as my impact man.

"Andrew Filo and Pimmy (Brendan Pimm) will also go really well in the halves."

Isis Devils will do battle with Easts in the early game on the program, while Hervey Bay Seagulls will be hoping to bounce back from their first-up drubbing by Brothers when they host the Devils' conquerors Wallaroos at Stafford Park.



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