Jed Lawrie takes the head coach reins after serving a long apprenticeship under Brent Stuart, and he’s aiming to maintain the Panthers’ heavyweight status with a strong squad. Canterbury Bulls half Tevin Arona will miss the first half of the season due to concussion, but Hornby boast enough key-position depth to overcome that setback.

Coach: Jed Lawrie

Last season: 3rd and beaten semi-finalists (won 11, lost 4)

Pre-season: “It’s been good, I’m still finding my bearings a wee bit, but we’ve still got ‘Stuy’ (Brent Stuart) tied up with the ‘Bs’ so he’s still got input into what we do. I have a great coaching team with Archie Jacobs helping. It’s hard to get a gauge with the season being pushed out a month later, and the heavy load they have with football, so it’s about trying to manage them. We’re getting close to being back to a full-strength team. We’ve still got a few niggles, but we’re getting there in the right direction.”

Key gains: Jesse Rogers (Halswell)

Key losses: Barry Alaimalo, Cody Te Awa, Mike Chivers

2016 squad: “We’ve still got Tevin (Arona), ‘Baxey’ (James Baxendale), Corey (Lawrie), ‘Spoons’ (Sean Spooner), ‘Smithy’ (Craig Smith). We’ve got Dene (Grace) and Tevin (Arona) coming through (amongst) the young ones, so we’re looking alright. Tevin’s unfortunately out for the next seven weeks with concussion. Not ideal, but we’ve got another Arona, Tau, Tevin’s cousin, so it’s a good opportunity for him to come in and stamp his mark. He’s a half as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing him have a good crack this year.”

Goals: “The main goal is to win the Pat Smith (Memorial Trophy), but a couple of short-term goals are top four and winning all our home games. To a degree it’s a rebuilding phase so we’re looking to blood some young ones into the premier team.”

Round 1: v Celebration Lions @ Cuthberts Green 1, Saturday 2:30pm – “It’s one of the toughest away trips, but we’ll get it out of the way early and hopefully get away with the win. We’ve still got Paradise Mann out, he’s working his last weekend roster. And Gene Spooner has his last meeting for racing, so there’s about three out, but we’re still be putting out a pretty strong team.”

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