Hornby Panthers 2017 Preview
Hornby Panthers, Canterbury Rugby League’s most prolific club with 27 titles, come into 2017 on the back of a convincing grand final loss at the hands of Linwood Keas last season.
But while the pain of that defeat will help spur the Panthers on this year, it’s the success ingrained in the club’s DNA that continues to drives them to maintain high standards year in, year out.
“We always strive to make the grand final, we pride ourselves on being a successful club so making the grand final is always our goal,” Hornby coach Jed Lawrie said.
“We’ll look to hopefully go one better this year.”
The Panthers have managed to keep the bulk of their grand final squad together in a year where most clubs are enduring high turnover, and they’ve added Will Tafua, who returns from a year out of the game, and experienced Northern Bulldogs prop Ross Turi.
Canterbury Bulls forward Paradise Mann is a significant loss, but the gap the Panthers will find the hardest to fill is the No.7 left by Tevin Arona, who linked with the Warriors’ InTrust Super Premiership squad.
“We’re still looking for that left half,” Lawrie admitted.
“We’ve got another training on Thursday to finalise it. I’m tossing it up in the air – I’ve still got a couple of options, but I’m yet to decide on who will take that spot.”
The Panthers kick off their 2017 campaign in a mouth-watering grand final rematch against the Keas at Branston Park on Saturday.
Years active (premiers division): 1917-20, 1923-present
Titles: 27 – 1926-27, 1930, 1933-34, 1936, 1952, 1958, 1962, 1964-67, 1969, 1983-84, 1986, 1990-91, 1996-97, 2001, 2006, 2009-10, 2012-13
2017 Coach: Jed Lawrie
Last season: 2nd and beaten grand finalists (won 10, lost 4)
Pre-season: “We’ve kept it a bit lighter than normal with the load the players had last year, but we’ve done a lot with our 16s and 18s, and a few sessions with our 14s, so it’s been good to bond the seniors in with the juniors,” Lawrie said.
Key gains: Will Tafua (year off), Ross Turi (Northern)
Key losses: Paradise Mann (Papanui), David TongoTongo (Melbourne), Tevin Arona (Warriors)
2017 Squad: Canterbury Bulls reps James Baxendale, Corey Lawrie and Dene Grace give the Panthers a solid core of experience despite their high-profile departures. “We’ve pretty much got the same squad apart from those guys we’ve lost, and we’ve been fortunate to pick up a couple. It softens the blow.”
2017 Goals: “They’ll set some personal goals and team goals themselves. Obviously to be top four come finals time is the main goal.”
Round 1: v Linwood Keas – 2.45pm @ Branston Park 1: “We’re just focussing on us. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got all our key things in order before we head into our first game, so we’re not really talking too much about a grand final replay – it’s more about us preparing well and setting a high standard to kick the season off.”