Johnathon Thurston, Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Matt Scott, turning out at Bathurst’s Carrington Park.
While it’s mouth-watering for fans in the western region it will be a huge test for Dubbo’s Isaah Yeo, potentially fellow CYMS product Kaide Ellis, and the Penrith Panthers.
Fitness permitting, those big names will run out in May next year after Thursday’s NRL draw release revealed the North Queensland Cowboys will travel south to face the Penrith Panthers in Bathurst in round nine.
Bathurst is one of seven regional centres that will host competition games next season and the Panthers-Cowboys blockbuster is the fifth edition of Penrith’s unprecedented commitment to the city, which sees the side host a clash there every year until 2028.
While the Canberra Raiders have fronted against Penrith the last two years, the value of having the 2015 premiers and 2017 runners-up in the western region is undeniably a gigantic scoop.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” NRL game development manager Dave Elvy, a legend of the sport in this region, enthused.
“It’s huge for the town to have the team that has played in two of the last three grand finals.”
With four Dally M Medals in tow, Thurston is the obvious drawcard and Elvy said he, and everyone else, will be desperately hoping the champion halfback is fit.
“Fingers crossed he’ll play,” Elvy said.
“If he doesn’t play I’m sure he’ll travel regardless. That’ll be huge news for the town and the area.”
The clash is marked down for Friday, May 4, that night time slot will add a new dynamic.
“Being a Friday night, hopefully a great crowd can come along and enjoy the footy and relax for the weekend,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to see their stars, who otherwise can’t travel. I know plenty that can’t travel and see games.
“It would be great to see a great crowd, to see Carrington Park chockers.”
The Cowboys will be the focus of many in the short-term, but Elvy said the Panthers must be given plenty of credit for their continued commitment to the area.
“They’re here for another 11 years,” he said.
“The Panthers do plenty of work in the region that goes unnoticed. They’ve invested massive time in the Western Region.
“Hopefully the Panthers’ blueprint to bring games to country areas is something that other NRL teams pick up on.”
Games have also be locked in at Mudgee, Tamworth, Gosford, Gladstone, Cairns and Toowoomba.