Penrith Panthers wants to feature sides in a new-look 12-team western rugby league competition

It’s radical. Huge. Momentous.

Say whatever you will, Penrith Panthers’ revelation it plans to have teams playing out of the western area has the potential to change everything about rugby league in the western area.

Fairfax Media reported on the weekend the Penrith Panthers club wants to have sides in a 12-team western competition, meaning the end of Group 11 and Group 10.

With Penrith having a side in this region the club has  a view to eventually fielding an Intrust Super Premiership side out of Bathurst. It is hoped the initiative will be rubber-stamped when it goes before the boards of the Country Rugby League, NSWRL and Panthers for approval.

The club also wants to set up academies out of the likes of Dubbo and Forbes.

"We want to make it our grassroots area to develop and eventually bring the players through our system,” Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher said.

"We'd like to play a Penrith reserve grade side out of Bathurst in the NSW Cup competition long-term.

"Our idea for grassroots football is for each club to develop an area. What we started five years ago, when we were stone broke and coming last to where we are today shows you we have the pathway right."

A lot has to happen between now and then for this to happen and there will be some leading teams from both competition who will miss out on playing in this feature competition.

But one of the greatest positives for all this is country players would get the chance to be in the NRL system while still living at, or close to, home.

Too often we see juniors from this region head to the city then after a year or two head back west, having not settled or quite made it with a club.

This would allow youngsters to ease their way into the game at a higher level, something the Panthers really want to drive.

The biggest indication about the seriousness of this proposal is the fact the CRL has already spoken on it, with Bert Lowre quoted in the report.

"We're excited by it, we believe it's a blueprint for other regions in the future," he said, before stressing the inclusion of the Panthers in the regional competitions was subject to his board's approval.


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