IT took just seven minutes for the first biff of the AFL Central West 2021 season, but that was as close as the Bathurst Bushranger Rebels would get to Parkes, with the Panthers beginning their premiership defence with a dominant 72 point victory at Northparkes Oval on Saturday afternoon.
Panthers coach Mitch Stubberfield was pleased with the way his charges were able to control the contest right from the outset.
"We set up really well across our centre line and it gave the boys up front a clear chance to get some ball without congestion and it also meant they weren't really able to penetrate our defensive 50," he said.
It was obvious from the outset Parkes would win over a severely undermanned Rebels side, but some poor kicking for goal prevented the margin from blowing out even further - something Stubberfield addressed.
"There's always things we can improve on, the set shots let us down a bit but the ball movement from our back half was outstanding and that's something we've been working on in preseason."
The highlight for spectators was some glorious tap work from ruck Alex Rogers, that often led to a breakaway clearance and uncontested inside 50 mark, of which Stubberfield was one of the beneficiaries of.
"Big Al and the rest of the boys in the guts really started to click during the second half and Alex, for a third-year ruck, had some incredible tap work," said Stubberfield.
Rogers, Stubberfield and Ryan Alexander were the standout players for a Panthers side that appeared impenetrable at times, though Stubberfield saved his praise for a couple of new players.
"Most of our first year players were really impressive like Robbie Stokes and Tom Cheney - both of them worked really hard and read the play well and it'll be exciting to see how they develop throughout the season," he said.
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Rebels coach Damian De Montemas wasn't deflated post-game - far from it - and he praised the courage his side showed.
"We haven't had a chance to train together as a team yet, so I can't fault the effort of the guys at all - it was really hot out there and Northparkes is an absolutely massive oval," he said.
De Montemas was also full of praise for the Panthers, but proud of the way his charges were able to compete across all four quarters, despite spending much of the game with only one player on the bench, compared to Parkes' six.
"That's going to be our hardest game I think, and we also had a few guys missing; Parkes are a great team and a great bunch of blokes so it's always really nice to play against them and I think they'll be very hard to beat this season.
"Our second half was much better than our first half, the boys all tried their guts out for four quarters and that's all I can ask of them...we just found it impossible to get it out of our own half and that's exhausting after awhile but they still stuck it out well," De Montemas said.
The endeavour was certainly there but the execution from the Rebels was lacking - which is a big reason why they found it hard to keep the ball out of their defensive 50.
From Parkes' perspective, it was a perfect start to the season on the scoreboard; but they'll take great delight in knowing just how much improvement will still be to come throughout the season.
Parkes Panthers 9.19-73 (Pike 3, Stubberfield 2, Vizard, Morell, Alexander and T. Snaith goals) defeated Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels 0.1-1
Parkes Panthers Best: Stubberfield, Alexander, Webb, Stokes, Morell
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