PENRITH centre Adrian Purtell has admitted being “blown away” by Lavington Panthers’ stunning coup in securing the Group 9 rugby league grand final.
Purtell played with the club when it was regarded as one of the competition’s poor relations in the early 2000s and said yesterday he was shocked the Panthers had been able to out-gun league strongholds including Cootamundra, Temora and Wagga for the September 26 match.
“It’s unbelievable,” Purtell said.
“Things sure have changed since I was playing with the club.
“Back then some people were trying to kick the clubs this side of Wagga out of the competition and now we are hosting the grand final.
“It’s great news and a good reward for all the work that has been put in.”
Although the grand final has been held in Wagga or nearby towns for more than a decade, the Riverina-based clubs were blown out of the water by a submission from Lavington and Albury Council.
It is believed the council pledged more than $10,000 assistance to help secure the hosting rights, while the Panthers were also aided by the poor state of Wagga’s Equex Centre.
Wagga Kangaroos president Mark Kennedy yesterday urged Wagga Council to become active in future bids.
“Speaking on behalf of all the rugby league, if the council doesn’t get on the bandwagon and pull their finger out ... this is going to keep happening in Wagga,” Kennedy said.
A massive crowd is expected to turn out for the grand final at Lavington Panthers Oval should the third-placed Panthers progress to the premiership decider.
Purtell has scored six tries for Penrith this season and is looking forward to the Panthers’ top-of-the-table clash against St George Illawarra on Monday.
“We probably had our best win of the season the other week and things are going well,” he said.
“I’m just trying to be consistent and play my role in the side.”