Blackpool seek repeat success

Blackpool Panthers coach Martin Crompton is relishing the challenge as his side get ready to defend their Northern Rail 9s title on home turf at Fylde Rugby Club on Saturday July 17.

The Panthers won last season’s inaugural tournament with victory over Sheffield Eagles and Crompton has become a big fan of the reduced format of the game.

“It’s an exciting, fast and free flowing version of Rugby League,” said Crompton. “I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience last year and took in most of the games when the Panthers weren’t in action.

“Maybe we have hit on Rugby League’s version of cricket’s Twenty20 or Rugby Union’s sevens? I think we should apply some thought to creating regular, structured competitions and I’m sure it would prove a big hit with the supporters.

“From an entertainment point of view it really is second to none and the whole concept is a great success.”

Crompton admits he was slightly surprised to see his charges lift the 9s title in 2009.

“We looked on it as a team-building exercise and I never seriously thought we could win it but the belief got stronger as the competition progressed and when we found ourselves in Sunday’s quarter-finals we realised that anything could happen,” he said.

“It was a massive achievement and something we can be very proud of but, as holders, we are up there to get knocked down at this year’s event.”

The Panthers will face a testing round of pool matches against Halifax, Hunslet Hawks and Leigh Centurions and Crompton knows his players will have to be at their peak.

“They don’t come tougher than this. Hunslet head the Co-operative Championship One table whilst Leigh and Halifax are two very accomplished Championship sides so we will have to be at our very best if we are to make progress,” he added.

The Panthers will be minus a number of key men from the 2009 event, including injured duo Jonny Leather and Paul Ballard.

The top four sides from a composite league table comprising all 18 competing sides will progress to the semi-finals. The matches last nine minutes each way with the action set to kick off at 10.00am. The final is scheduled to be played at 6.30pm.

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