Castlereagh League 2017: Gilgandra Panthers move into Clayton Cup contention after clinical grand final victory

The undeniable force that has been the Gilgandra Panthers powered its way to a comprehensive victory over the Coonamble Bears in Saturday’s 2017 Christie and Hood Castlereagh League grand final.

In front of huge crowd at Gilgandra’s McGrane Oval, the Panthers were always in command and claimed the silverware for a second year in succession with a resounding 46-10 victory.

The win reinforced the club’s already strong claim for the prestigious Clayton Cup, which is awarded annually by the Country Rugby League (CRL) to the best performed first grade team in regional NSW.

Despite suffering a severe hand injury early in proceedings, Panthers’ second rower Ashley Hazelton stamped his authority on the game, scoring three tries and setting up another in one of his trademark no-nonsense performances. He was rewarded with the man of the match award for his efforts.

While the Bears never threw the towel, the side’s attack struggled in the face of a stout Gilgandra defence. Despite Coonamble repeatedly holding firm in the middle, the Panthers’ more expansive style of play, on the back of a solid platform laid by the forward pack, proved far more fruitful.

In what may well be a record for a first time first grade mentor, the win capped off a sensational year for Gilgandra’s captain-coach Jamie Towney, who has guided his team to an undefeated premiership and in with a strong argument for the Clayton Cup.

Highlights of the Gilgandra Panthers' grand final win.

Earlier in the day, the Coonabarabran Unicorns claimed the Christie and Hood Castlereagh League Youth League premiership with a 40-26 win over the Baradine Magpies.

While the Unicorns took the spoils the Maggies lost no supporters with another gutsy display which saw them score the game’s final three tries. They had seemingly been down and out after Coonabarabran shot out to a huge lead 10 minutes into the second half.

The Warren Bulldogs claimed the league tag premiership honours when they downed the Dunedoo Swanettes 26-14

In somewhat of a shock result, Bulldogs’ Katina Darcy played a major role in securing the premiership with two tries and she was duly awarded player of the match.

The game was of a high standard and reinforced just how important league tag is to the Castlereagh League.

Matther Guan’s extensive service to the game of rugby league and the Dunedoo community was recognised when he was named as the Volunteer of the Year, whilst Brand Worrell from Baradine was recognised as the Youth League Player of the Year.

Coonamble’s Tori Canham was once again awarded the Castlereagh League League Tag Player of the Year.

In three years of league tag in the Castlereagh League, Canham’s name is still the only name to appear on the perpetual trophy, highlighting her class and skill.

There were two Christie and Hood Castlereagh League Player of the Year award recipients with Gilgandra’s Ashley Hazelton and Coonamble’s hard toiling front rower Moe Jacobs each polling 19 votes.

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