WEE Waa Panthers are struggling and preparing to weather a Bulldog arrival at home at Captain Cook Oval tomorrow.
Reeling from last week’s 68-16 loss to Narrabri Blues and the imminent loss of backline star Brenton Cochrane to Narrabri, the Panthers are clawing their from the jaws of folding.
Coach Adrian Sunderland is determined and confident the Panthers can remain afloat but admits it has looked a distinct threat in recent weeks.
“It has been a struggle for us,” Sunderland said.
“We did lose a fair few from last year and we don’t have any juniors.
“Then we had a bit of a raid from Narrabri as well and lost a few players there.
“But we are hanging in.”
A strengthened Gunnedah Bulldogs arrive tomorrow to test the Panthers again.
“They went pretty well at the Knockout and present a challenge for us,” Sunderland said.
“We’re struggling for numbers. We only started with 12 fresh A graders last week.
“We had one player who played reserve grade, Dylan Harradine. He and Tyler Smith were rotating for us but then Tyler got sent off.
“It was a bit of a lazy swinging arm. I don’t think he deserved to get sent off – there was no malice in it.
“There hadn’t been anything going on and there hadn’t been any warnings.”
Playing with 12 men for around 60 minutes didn’t help the Panthers either.
“At one stage we were attacking their line just before half-time. If we scored then (29-10) it might have helped.”
As it was, the final half hour was a blow-out as the extra work took its toll on the Panthers.
Losing Sam Knight to what looks to be a season-ending knee injury (cruciate) is a cruel blow for Knight and the club, Sunderland said.
He’s looking towards experienced players such as Ben Power, Dan Hamilton and Dave Cruickshank to lead the way tomorrow and throughout the season.
“It’s just a matter of getting the combinations going,” he said.
“We did play a bit dumb at times last week.
“We’re just looking for an all-round improvement from the boys”.
The Panthers have also signed four Walgett players and now it’s a “matter of being able to get them here”.
As far as the Cochrane saga goes, he’s now leaving it in Narrabri’s lap.
Cochrane had signed to play for Wee Waa but then signed with Narrabri.
“As far as it stands now it’s up to the two clubs to sort it out otherwise it goes to the management committee,” Sunderland said.
“It’s up to Narrabri to see how much they want him.
“I talked to Brenton last weekend and explained a few things.
“His signing with them put us at a great disadvantage.
“It could have wrecked us because there were a number of other players who left us and signed with Narrabri on the proviso he was playing with them.
“If Brenton didn’t want to play with us he could have come and seen us.
“ I rang him a number of times.
“Trying to replace him has put us at a great disadvantage.
“It’s up to Narrabri now to see how much they do want him and to reimburse us what we paid him and a bit more for the disadvantage it has put us in.
“As I said, it could have helped us fold.”