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AFL Central West: Parkes Panthers continue perfect start in Tier 2

A PERCENTAGE of 9800 on an Aussie Rules ladder.

No, that isn't a typo.

The Parkes Panthers have had a glorious start to their AFL Central West Tier 2 season, winning all three of their games by huge margins.

In round 1 they defeated a depleted Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels side 73-1 before whacking the other Bushrangers side, the Outlaws, 138-2.

After a couple of byes and a cancelled game against Cowra, the Panthers returned to the field last Saturday at Northparkes Oval and promptly beat the Bathurst Giants by an incredible 181 points.

So basically it's round 5 and the reigning premiers still haven't conceded a goal, after a preseason in which all the other AFL Central West clubs pegged Parkes as the one to beat in Tier 2.

Panthers coach Mitch Stubberfield isn't buying into all the hype quite yet though.

"We are only 5 weeks into the season so there's lots of hype around our start, but obviously there is still a fair way to go," he said.

"We are going really well though, the old boys that were watching on the weekend commented on how well we were moving the ball.

"To have people notice that in games, after all the hard yards we've done on it at training, is really positive," said Stubberfield.

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That ball movement has made the Panthers one of the most watchable teams in either Tier, and when they get an uncontested clearance from the middle before hitting a target inside 50 with the next disposal - well, it is just poetry in motion.

The game style is being executed almost flawlessly at the moment, but Stubberfield says it is light years away from last season's ball movement.

"Our game style is just about maintaining possession and we want to take the short kicks when they're open.

"Unlike last year, we aren't a very tall side so our game style has changed a heap since last season," Stubberfield said.

The Panthers will head to Orange on Saturday to take on the Tigers, and Stubberfield was intrigued to see how his boys would measure up.

"They're (Orange) coming off a good win over the Rebels and I'm very interested to see how they are tracking; it'll certainly be more of a stop-start scrappy game and that's exactly what we need at the moment.

"They'll be stronger at home too obviously, so this will be a big test," he said.

While we may laud the start of the Panther juggernaut, Stubberfield says it is important to him, the club and the AFL Central West in general that Tier 2 see competitive games most weeks.

"Tier 2 isn't about pumping teams and getting huge wins, it's about creating an environment where people enjoy their footy and that helps keep teams in the long term.

"We are certainly happy to lend bench players to the opposition when it is needed; and it also has the added benefit of giving some of our players extra game time - the more minutes individuals can have, the better."

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