Panthers to pounce in semis
By AARON KELLY
SINCE their inception, the Biloela Panthers have won almost as many wooden spoons as games before this year's Central Queensland Extended League A grade competition.
But the club's sudden rise from cellar-dwellers to premiership contenders has given Biloela reason to be optimistic about knocking a injury-hit Rockhampton Brothers out of the finals race at Rockhampton's Browne Park tomorrow.
The Panthers are riding a wave of confidence into their maiden finals appearance ? an emphatic 156-2 thrashing of Tannum Sands in round 17 sealing the fifth and final semi-final spot.
Biloela have won a club record 21 games across all three grades this season, compared to six last season and just three in 2003.
While their Rainbow Street home ground is known as a graveyard on Saturday nights for visiting teams, the Panthers have also won half of their away games this season.
Add the competition's best crowds into the mix, with an av- erage of 500 spectators for every home game, and Panthers president Lloyd Allen is confident the club is moving in the right direction.
"We're building a great community spirit and are keen as mustard to compete this weekend,'' Allen said.
In their two encounters this season, Rockhampton Brothers have come-from-behind to steamroll Biloela in the second half.
"They shouldn't take us lightly and we definitely won't be taking them lightly,'' Allen warned.
A battered Rockhampton Brothers arrive in the do-or-die semi-final without lock Leroy Wilson and centre Chris Fleming from last weekend's heart-breaking Rockhampton Rugby League grand final loss to the CQU Norths Chargers.
The Panthers have lost prop Rick Smith and fullback Dan Ramsey for the match.
"We're expecting another tough game,'' Rockhampton Brothers coach Steve Parle said.
In the major semi-final, Wallabys and Gladstone Brothers meet in a Gladstone-derby at Marley Brown Oval tomorrow while minor premiers the Chargers have the week off.