Desperate Panthers’ big chance
By Tate Spiteri
The Waverley Oakleigh Panthers will go in favourites for this weekend’s bottom of the table clash against the North West Wolves. The two winless sides will both be desperate for their first taste of victory after testing starts to the season.
Already at this early stage the two sides are entrenched to the bottom of the ladder and it is hard to see the loser being able to salvage something from the season as the gap between them and the other 6 teams in the competition widens.
The Panthers have scored reasonably well this season despite 5 consecutive losses, showing that an attacking prowess does exist. But the Easterners balance between attack and defence to this point in the season has left a lot to be desired, conceding an average of 34 points a game. Only the Wolves have a worse defensive record this year, averaging 59 points against per game but they will be heartened after keeping the reigning premiers Werribee under that mark last weekend.
The Wolves lost that match 52-10 but it was a considerably better effort than their other matches against top 4 teams such as the 94-0 drubbing they copped at the hands of Casey and the 68-12 blitzing from Altona.
Improvement is also evident in the Panthers team having gone down by just 18 and 6 points in their two matches before last week’s bye. A big reason for this improvement has been the inclusion of Englishman Thomas Hubbard and Luke Gillooly.
Gillooly and Hubbard who are new to Australia and surprise recruits for Waverley having sourced their own way to the club have been solid performers for the struggling side with Gilloly the clubs leading scorer for the year.
The pair showed their class in a stunning reserve grade performance against Altona in round 5 where they played an instrumental hand in overcoming a 30-0 deficit. The pair started the game on the bench but after being injected into the game they ignited Waverley to a stunning 46-36 win.
“The boys are both here working for a year or two and great for the club” President Andrew Cowan told NRL Victoria.
“Tom’s pretty no nonsense he always comes to play and does a good job”
While the versatile John Hannon has also gained praise for his start to the season with Cowan describing him as one of the toughest players in the league.
“We probably need to come together as a team a bit more, at training and games, when we do that we will be a lot better” Cowan said.
A big part of the Panthers ability to do that will come down to getting more continuity amongst their team, just 4 players have played every game this year forcing a weekly raft of changes.
Waverley-Oakleigh by 12