THE Parkes Panthers returned to the winner's circle on Saturday with a timely 50 point win over fellow final aspirants and arch rivals the Cowra Blues in Parkes.
The Panthers, who were lead admirably by inspirational forward and Captain Natalie Bignell with a brace won 7-15-57 to 1-1-7 in difficult conditions.
Northparkes Oval took on a grand final type atmosphere in what was a do-or-die clash for both sides as Parkes dominated from the opening bounce and never relented against an under-manned Blues side.
“We stuck to our plan and with one round left we have given ourselves every chance to nab the last finals spot,” coach Ralph said.
“Currently both sides sit on the same points but are only separated by percentages with Cowra shading the Panthers by a mere one per cent,” he said.
Yet if Saturday’s display is anything to go by then next weekend could throw up any number of possibilities.
“We had a lot of stars on Saturday with Emma Barry and Penny Baker among many of the standouts,” Ralph said.
Baker in particular dominated the midfield, winning most contests and was instrumental in every attacking raid the Panthers launched against a shell-shocked Blues side that had no answers to her sublime passing, deft kicking and fierce tackling.
She wasn’t alone.
“Holly Moore was also inspirational and strong with everything she did, Amy Roseby and Alex Briton were equally as impressive,” Ralph said.
“It was great to see everything start to click after a challenging season.”
The mercurial Katie Hetherington was also a handful for the Blues providing a target in the forward line for the busy midfield.
Though what impressed Ralph the most was the team’s defence.
“We were solid at the back with Ashley Rosser and Lauren Andrews, that was the most pleasing aspect of the performance,” Ralph said.
“We will need to be on our game against strong favourites Dubbo.”
Parkes play Dubbo in a must-win clash this weekend in Dubbo.
1 Bathurst Bushrangers
2 Dubbo Demons
3 Orange Tigers
4 Cowra Blues
5 Parkes Panthers
6 Young Saints