It was a proud moment for long-serving Western Suburbs club champion and team coach Corey Tanner when his 18-year-old son Marcus made his A Grade debut for the Panthers in their stunning 46-22 victory over Past Brothers last week.
Marcus became a fourth generation A Grader for Wests, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Arthur “Hobie” and grandfather Nathan, and a tradition also upheld by Nathan’s brothers - the late Danny and Graham - and brother-in-law Wes.
Corey, 40, started with the Panthers as a junior and has given his heart and soul to the club as an inspirational, passionate and highly successful player, coach, administrator and mentor ever since - apart from several years at Easts Magpies.
Corey said it was “pretty special” for Marcus to also play with three of his uncles for the first time - Corey’s brothers Dan, Josh and Nick.
Corey was also excited to roll out two more A Grade debutants against the Brethren in their first round clash.
Multi-talented pocket dynamo five-eighth Brendan Grills, who with Marcus was among the galaxy of stars in their under 18 premiership last year, and 17-year-old excitement machine fullback Chris Robinson, who has returned home after completing his schooling at Wavell State High.
“Brendan is a second-generation Wests A Grader, following on from his father and tireless worker for the club throughout his junior career, Ian, while Chris’ father Peter played for Easts, including winning a grand final back in the 90s,” Corey Tanner said.
Grills only started training a fortnight earlier, after being an integral part of Waves’ clean sweep of Bundaberg Cricket A Grade competition. He also had an excellent season at representative level, including being a star in Wide Bay’s South Queensland under 21 title and Bundaberg’s domination of the Wide Bay Open Goodchild Shield.
What made Tanner even prouder was that most of the 17 players on the night have come out of their Panthers endless junior production line.
Front rower Dan, 33, turned back the clock with a hat-trick of tries, and was denied another when held up over the line, in a vintage all-round performance.
The team's backline feasted on the go-forward provided by their whole pack, and creativity of halves Grills and Marcus Tanner, with young centres Jensen Deamer and Dyirun Johnson, and wingers Jake Coros and Gage Laird, all crossing.
“I just love the youth and excitement the young boys bring to the team – Dan and the boys just ran good lines off the young halves, and it all ran like clockwork,” Tanner said.
After a big win also over Brothers in Reserve Grade, this has been Wests’ best start to the season for years, and Tanner was daring to dream of claiming their first A Grade title since completing back-to-back successes in 2013-14, and successfully defending their Reserve and Under 18 premierships.
“The club is really healthy at the moment, but in A Grade, Dan and Josh will only be able to play on alternate weeks from now on because they work different shifts, but we have got Tyson Douglas and Joseph Doyle to come into the side, and we have got a lot of depth,” the Wests coach said.
But Tanner knows that Brothers will be better and that there will be no easy games in the competition, with Easts Magpies and Hervey Bay Seagulls also each good first-up winners.
Waves Tigers and Wallaroos will also be certain to rebound strongly from their losses, and there is a long way to go if they are to hold the trophy aloft on August 29.
Wests’ next match will be against Wallaroos at Salter Oval this Saturday.
Main image: Chris Robinson, Brendan Grills and Marcus Tanner each made impressive A Grade debuts for Wests Panthers in the first round of the Bundaberg Premiership.