Candelo-Bemboka Panthers in the chocolates

• Panther John Dickson makes a burst during the Group 16 nines tournament against the Cooma Stallions. The Panthers will be looking to continue their good form when they meet the Stallions on Saturday.

• Panther John Dickson makes a burst during the Group 16 nines tournament against the Cooma Stallions. The Panthers will be looking to continue their good form when they meet the Stallions on Saturday.

ORIGINS OF THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIERS

“CHOCOLATE soldier” jerseys will be worn the by Candelo-Bemboka Panthers on Saturday. 

The jerseys are a re-creation of the original brown and white jerseys handed down to the club from the Penrith Panthers in 1969. 

Club president Dave Allen said it will be a special tribute to the origins of the club. 

It will also mark the official return of the Panthers to Colombo Park, Bemboka, for the first time in 30 years. 

“The story goes that one of the guys had a link with Penrith back in 1969,” Allen said. 

“Penrith was admitted to the Sydney competition with Cronulla Sutherland and couldn’t use their royal blue.

“So they went for a brown and white jumper and hence when Candelo-Bemboka went looking for some club colours ...”

The club’s original jerseys had been sent from the Penrith Panthers, but Allen wasn’t sure if they were made new or had been used. 

The jerseys for tomorrow’s game are almost identical. 

“So we’ve made up the exact same design as the originals to pay tribute to the original club,” Allen said. 

Head coach Matt Inskip said it would mean a lot to the club and supporters to return to Bemboka tomorrow. 

“There is a lot of emotion this weekend with our heritage round,” Inskip said. 

Inskip said the Panthers are ready to take on the Stallions. 

“Cooma is always traditionally a tough side and they’ve got a big forward pack.

“I think our forwards will be very evenly matched,” he said. 

The club will hold a special ceremony during half-time of the league tag match. 

“Original players from the club will present the brown and white jumpers to the current squad,” Allen said. 

After the game, the jumpers will be auctioned off at the Bemboka Hotel with proceeds going to support the club. 

Allen said the Panthers are looking strong in the competition and fans had been coming out of the woodwork. 

“We’ll see massive numbers, it will be very big.

“We don’t have a lot of sport out in this area.

“So it’s something for the whole community to get involved with and support the team,” he said. 

Allen said it was great to have teams representing the smaller villages around the Bega Valley and paid special mention to the Cobargo Eels who were unable to field a side this year. 

“Hopefully we’ll see them back, better than ever next year,” Allen said.  

“It gives those little villages a sense of community and somewhere to meet on the weekend, it’s really good for the spirit of the place. 

“Original fans are coming out of the woodwork, it’s good for the group too, more people are coming out to support football so we’re expecting a big crowd,” he said. 

Inskip echoed Allen’s sentiment. 

“I saw a lot of people [in Bega] I’ve never seen at football matches before, they came out to support us.

“It’s good to be bringing people back to the game. 

“It’s something we had never thought of,” he said. 

Allen said the reserve grade squad had been performing strongly after a long break since the nines tournament and pre-season. 

“They were concerned about the long break, but they trained really well.

“In their game last week they performed really well, hopefully they can keep that form going.”

Allen said if the squad continues to play well it will put the club in good stead to be stronger next year. 

“Hopefully we’re there at the pointy end of the season, 

“If your side is winning, you’re going to get a lot more support and interest.

“Then we can funnel that in to getting a first grade side next year,” he said. 

The Pambula-Merimbula Bullpups and Hotdoggies will be on hand for the 18s and league-tag classhes. 

Under 18s starts at 1.15pm with the Bullpups up against the Cooma Colts. 

The league-tag will see the Hotdoggies face off with the Cooma Fillies and the main event will see the Panthers against the Stallions. 

Kickoff for the main event is 3.45pm at Colombo Park, Bemboka 

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