Panthers rely on young guns 

MONARO Panthers coach Njegosh Popovich admits the side is far from ready to produce a dominant performance in this Sunday’s Mayor’s Cup derby against Queanbeyan City.

But Popovich will still be looking to his youthful charges to stand up as the club attempts to retain the trophy for the first time.

Not helping the Panthers’ cause this weekend has been an almost wholesale turnover of the club’s playing squad from last season over the offseason.

Popovich estimates at least 10 members of last year’s first grade side have since moved on. 

“We’ve gone through a massive restructure [during the off-season] so it’s not ideal to be playing this game so early in the season,” Popovich acknowledged.

“But in football you’ve got to grow up quick. We’ve got a very young team and our kids have to cut their teeth.

“A lot of them wouldn’t have played senior, first grade football [before Sunday] so there will be a couple of debutants out there who might be shell-shocked for the first 15 minutes.”

This weekend’s match will also be Popovich’s first hit out in sole charge of a Panthers outfit since the off-season departure of former co-coach Frank Cachia to a technical director’s role at Canberra Olympic.

Former Tuggeranong United coach Martin Lategui has stepped into an assistant’s role this season but Popovich said he was looking forward to taking greater control of the reins.

Sunday’s game-day program will get underway from 2pm with the Senior Master’s Mayor’s Shield before the Mayoress’ Cup between Monaro and Canberra Olympic at 3.30pm.

Sunday’s game-day program will get underway from 2pm with the Senior Master’s Mayor’s Shield before the Mayoress’ Cup between Monaro and Canberra Olympic at 3.30pm.

The Mayor’s Cup will kick-off at 5pm.

The Mayor’s Cup will kick-off at 5pm.

ion that the Capital League side was carrying the favourite’s tag ahead of this weekend’s match.

Monaro will be understrength for the contest but Ryan said the quality of young talent coming through the Panthers’ ranks could not be discounted.

“They’re a quality side and we’ve had a fair turnover of players as well from last season,” Ryan said alluding to Monaro’s influx of new faces this year.

“The amount of youngsters we’ve got coming through at the moment is good to see but we still have to see how they go under pressure. So I don’t know about being favourites,” he added with a laugh.

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