Assurances have been made that the name, emblem and colours of Queensland?s longest-surviving rugby league club will continue to live on into the future.
Aiming for a return to the Queensland Wizard Cup within the next three seasons, the Western Suburbs Panthers are set to unveil bold new plans in coming months.
Panthers Colts coach Glenn Lazarus had used uncertainty over the Panthers? future as a motivating force before last weekend?s grand final, saying it was possibly their ?last game ever?.
However, Wests chief executive Darren Bell has since added clarity to the statement, promising rejuvenated fortunes for a club that has existed since 1915 and made the State League final as recently as 1998.
?It was disappointing we lost the Colts on the weekend, but to all Wests supporters, I?d like them to know that steps to strengthen the club are being put in place,? Bell said.
?The Wests name, the Panther name, the red and black colours are all here to stay, but some changes will be necessary.
?The plan is to have Wests back in the Queensland Wizard Cup in either 2007 or 2008 and for that to happen, hard decisions have to be made for the benefit of the club.
?I?m confident we?ll have something to announce in the next month and that things will start to turn around.?
After a brief association with the Brisbane Broncos, the Panthers are intent on more locally-based representation through all grades in 2006.
A strong junior presence was a hallmark of Wests? success throughout the 90s.
Discussions have already progressed on the topic of forming junior representative teams from Brisbane?s western suburbs, presenting opportunities for travel.
Preliminary discussions have younger age groups touring areas such as Wide Bay, Central Queensland and the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.
Under 17 players would then be given the chance to tour New Zealand, provided they are contracted for Wests Colts the following season.
?We want to ensure kids can stay in the area, continue to play for the Panthers and not be taken by other clubs,? said Bell.
Satellite clubs Wests Juniors, Wests Mitchelton, Wests Arana Hills and Wests Centenary all continue to carry the Panther emblem and sport the traditional colours.
Recent NRL players who have featured for Wests or its junior clubs include Brad Thorn, Shaun Berrigan, Barry Berrigan, Brent Webb, Justin Hodges, David Myles, Shane Tronc, Josh Hannay, Daniel Strickland, Rod Jensen, David Kidwell, Adam Peek, Michael Ryan, Kris Kahler, Luke Williamson, Jamie McDonald, Rob Tanielu, Paul Stephenson and Ben Czislowski.
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