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Panthers building Bathurst talent

Alexander Grant, Western Advocate

Panthers coaching clinic at Morse Park.
Panthers clinic at Morse Park. Image courtesy of Phil Blatch, Western Advocate.

Players travelled from far and wide to be a part of a high performance clinic run by Penrith Panthers staff at Morse Park earlier this month.

Panthers staff have been to Bathurst to take the region's under 13s to 16s players through the 'Cubs' development program, but this most recent two-hour camp was a chance to take the leading 14 and 15-year-olds through a higher-level clinic.

Several Penrith staff members journeyed to Bathurst to oversee the clinic, including the NRL club's high performance manager Matt Cameron.

Cameron said the trips to Bathurst provide a great experience for the region's rising stars.

"This is the third year we've run this camp. We've got 25 under 14s and 25 under 15s. We’ve had one boy who has travelled from Bourke to be here today, so that’s fantastic," he said.

"Earlier in the year we ran our 'Cubs' program, where we engage the under 13s, 14s, 15s and 16s. Primarily they’re the Western Rams representative teams. 

"There we run a four week program over Tuesday nights where coaches form Panthers come up on the first night and write the rest of the program.

"The idea of this camp today is an extension of that, but with a more elite pathway. That’s particularly the case with the 15s, as this is the first true school representative year that they’re eligible for."

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At the clinic players were broken up into four separate groups based on their age and run through drills.

It gave the Penrith staff present, such as SG Ball coach Ben Harden and Panthers recruitment manager Jim Jones, the opportunity to accurately assess all players.

"This is an elite pathways camp. With the staff here today we've got Ben Harden, our SG Ball coach, and Lino [Salafai] and Kyle [Churchill] who are our two assistant coaches for the Harold Matthews representative team," Cameron said.

"The coaching goes up a notch here. We coach it all here, whereas at the Cubs program Benny writes a program and the Group coaches coach it."

Cameron said he's consistently impressed but the commitment the Western region's juniors demonstrate.

"It's always great coming out here. The kids are receptive and the parents are great," he said.

"As someone who lives in Sydney it's difficult to comprehend the distance these kids travel to come to these things."

NRL game development officer for western NSW, Dave Elvy, said the region continues to reap the benefits from the camp.

"It's great for the kids to hear how it all works in Sydney," he said.

"Sometimes they feel like the guys in Sydney are far ahead so it’s good for them to hear how well they’re doing from these guys."

This article first appeared on the Western Advocate website.

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