TAKE a look back over the records of most sporting teams in their first season, and you won’t find much cause for celebration.
Sure, nobody wants to win the wooden spoon, but there’s no shame in feeling your way through that first season and picking up the odd win.
If that’s how it’s supposed to go, somebody forgot to tell the Candelo-Bemboka Panthers.
Just months after making a comeback in Group 16 reserve grade after 31 years in the wilderness, the club is sitting just one win off the pace, and is quietly confident of fielding a first grade side next year.
Add to that a women’s league-tag side, and the proud club are well and truly on the up and up.
And the locals can sense something special.
“I’ve been astounded by the crowds and the support; the amount of supporter gear we’ve sold is just astounding,” club president David Allen said.
“They’re hardcore rugby league areas, Candelo and Bemboka, and it was a very successful club back in the day, particularly in the ’70s when we won five or six premierships.
“We’ll have a women’s league-tag side next year, and we’re pushing to get a first grade side too.
“We’ll have to wait until the end of the year (to know for sure), but we’ve had a few guys approach us from other clubs, as well as interstate and internationally, about playing next year.
“A lot will depend on the recruiting we’re able to do, but a number of the reserve grade guys could make the step up too.”
Having folded in 1983 due to a lack of numbers, the club’s resurgence comes on the back of a strong reserve grade campaign so far in 2014.
They currently occupy second place on the Group 16 ladder, with just three rounds remaining.
The Panthers gave the ladder-leading Eden side their first defeat of 2014 on Sunday, holding on despite a late Tigers surge to win 18-14.
Eden opened the scoring just five minutes in through Tyrone Thomas, but tries to Jory Taylor and Luke McPaul gave Candelo-Bemboka a 12-6 halftime advantage.
Mordan Stewart hit back for Eden early in the second stanza, but their joy was short-lived as Bobby Taylor crossed the stripe to give the Panthers an eight-point lead.
Stewart jagged a second with just under 10 minutes to go, but Candelo-Bemboka held on to complete the victory.
“It was a really good effort by the boys, and coming off a 38-0 win against Narooma the previous week, we’re starting to build momentum,” Allen said.
“We had a great start to the season, but we had a few injuries and one of our coaches left, so we were a bit disjointed for a while.
"When we played [Eden] earlier in the year, we had a few disruptions, but we competed well with them in the first half of that game.
"We took that into Sunday and got out to a bit of a lead, and they started to panic a bit, while we stayed focused and got the result."
Allen believes his side are in with a shot of a finals triumph.
“With players coming back now and getting some match fitness, we’re a big chance.
“It will be a tough task to get first place from here, but as long as we make the top two we qualify for the major semi, which gives us a second shot at getting to the grand final if we lose.”
A date with Tathra on Sunday looms as the Panthers’ next assignment, before a bye and a trip to Narooma round out the regular season.
Kick-off on Sunday is at 1pm, at Colombo Park in Bemboka.
History at stake
A PLACE in history will be up for grabs when the Candelo-Bemboka Panthers and Tathra Sea Eagles clash in Group 16 reserve grade at Colombo Park, Bemboka on Sunday.
The now-famous 'Bemboka to the Beach' football has surfaced, and will be awarded to the winning side along with the Terry Dickson Men of League Shield.
The Panthers currently hold both, having prevailed 28-18 when the sides met in round 6.
The Sea Eagles' first grade side have the week off courtesy of the bye, as do the Bega Roosters in all grades.
For the full story of the famous footy, see Tuesday's Tathra Times.