HOME SWEET HOME FOR HORNBY
Hornby Panthers will return to their historic home turf this season, bringing with them hopes of an overdue premiership.
The season is shaping as a big one for the club, who had to play away from their Leslie Park base in 2017 due to ground repair.
Hornby Panthers President Brent Tomlinson said the club did well to perform the way they did on the field despite the trials of moving grounds and having to relocate to Branston Park.
“It was pretty hard going in that our back-up field doesn’t have a lot of lighting or changing facilities for more than one team. Effectively we were playing on the road for 12 months,” Tomlinson said.
“Our senior sides made a pact amongst themselves that it wouldn’t affect their performances, that it wouldn’t be an excuse.
“It worked out pretty well, it sort of galvanised them.”
The move came courtesy of a council plan to upgrade Leslie Park in time for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Unfortunately for the club, there were delays and things didn’t go to plan, meaning there was a scramble to keep a successful season together. But the Panthers premiers team rallied to reach the grand final, where they went down to Linwood for the second straight year.
In the long-term, however, the Panthers will now benefit from a pristine playing surface that is ready for the opening day of the 2018 season.
“The guys are killing themselves to get back here. Once the posts are up the prems will have had a week to train ready for the first game,” Tomlinson said.
“We’re desperate to get our juniors back here, they feed off one another and creates the family environment that we’ve got.
“It’s just kind of the way we roll.”
The Panthers return home for the upgraded Leslie Park’s unveiling this Saturday, April 7, for the CRL grand final rematch with the Keas.
The Round 1 blockbuster is the first box to tick on the way to one of Panthers coach Jed Lawrie’s main goals for 2018: to go through the season undefeated at home, an achievement they pulled off against the odds last year.
“We made Branston Park a bit of a fortress last year, so one of our goals being back at Leslie Park is to make that a fortress,” Lawrie said.
“There will be no excuses after what we did at Branston.”
Lawrie, who will attempt to guide Hornby to its first Canterbury Rugby League title since 2013, echoed Tomlinson’s sentiments regarding the first-rate facilities now at the Panthers’ disposal.
“Our volunteers have put in a massive effort and a lot of work into the club as well,” the coach said.
“The boys are going to be pretty impressed when they get back there for training and have a look around. We’re pretty lucky to have a great bunch of volunteers.”