Six Group 10 teams, including the Blayney Bears, are set to contest the 2022 Bathurst Panthers Knockout, after organisers were hopeful of attracting at least 10 clubs across the Western region.
Bathurst Panthers, St Pat's, Orange CYMS, Mudgee Dragons, Cowra Magpies and Blayney Bears have all nominated for the annual pre-season competition, which has been unaffected by COVID-19 the past two years.
Panthers treasurer Danny Dwyer said he was disappointed by the turnout for the knockout, which will be held on March 11-12 at Carrington Park.
"We were hoping to get more. I budgeted for 10 at the start of the season," he said.
"We were hoping to get all the Group 10 clubs in and maybe pick up three from Group 11. That was our plan, to roughly end up with 10 teams if we could.
"We just didn't have a lot of interest there early on, to get the clubs involved. It was a little bit disappointing, but at the end of the day, it has been a bit of a difficult start to the year.
"I think to end up with six [in first grade] and seven [in under 18s] was pretty good."
The knockout was originally scheduled to take place on the weekend gone, however, organisers shifted it back a week so it didn't clash with Western Rams representative matches.
The knockout is one of the rare sporting competitions in the Central West that hasn't been affected by COVID-19, with last year's tournament played under little to no restrictions, while 2020 was played only weeks before the original lockdown.
Dwyer said the knockout is always a great way to kick-start the season.
"It's a good opportunity to start the season off, by getting all the clubs together," he said.
As well as the first grade knockout, there will be an under 18s competition, with seven teams entered.
Those seven teams are Bathurst Panthers, St Pat's, Orange Hawks, Orange CYMS, Mudgee Dragons, Lithgow Workies and Cowra Magpies.
The first grade matches will be played over 20-minute halves, while the under 18s competition will be 15-minute halves.
Bathurst Panthers are the reigning knockout champions, having defeat Orange CYMS 24-4 in the final last March.
Orange CYMS won the 2020 title after defeating cross-town rivals Hawks 13-12, in what was green and gold's captain-coach Daniel Mortimer's first hit out.
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