WHEN Chris Bailey makes his first grade debut for Orange Emus on Saturday, he’s hoping it could be the start of a regular spot in the top grade.
Emus will host Parkes in their round 12 Blowes Clothing Cup match on Saturday and Bailey can’t wait.
The halfback joined Emus six years ago but has returned to the club this year after having the last few seasons off.
“I’m a bit excited,” Bailey said of Saturday’s game.
The 28-year-old played in Sydney University’s second and third grade colts sides and later joined Woollahra Colleagues before coming to Orange.
He said he’s enjoyed playing with Emus.
“It’s a very close competition. There’s a good atmosphere at the club,” he said.
Emus coach Paul Ringland said Bailey had earned his place in the top grade.
“He’s done well in second grade. He’ll fit in well,” Ringland said.
Five-eighth Nigel Staniforth is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
TJ Cunynghame will move from halfback to five-eighth, something Ringland is confident with.
“Having TJ at five-eighth is probably a better position for him,” the coach said.
“We’ll look for him to drive us around and get our centres going.”
Emus have had a tough three weeks playing out a 3-all draw with Orange City before losing to Bathurst Bulldogs 20-10 and CSU Bathurst 19-18.
The Orange side is fourth on the competition ladder, five points ahead of ninth-placed Bathurst.
“I’ve never been in a comp where it has been this tight,” Ringland said.
“You can pull a couple of wins and be right up there or you can lose a couple and drop right down.”
Parkes are sixth on the competition ladder on 25 points.
Emus downed Parkes 17-0 in round three but Ringland knows tomorrow’s game will be tougher.
“We’ve got to try and contain that big pack they’ve got as well as their speed and strength in the halves,” he said.
“Johnny Rathbone is obviously their spark and we have to watch for that. Our backs have got to be prepared for a good solid hit-out.”
Emus fullback Graydon Staniforth was knocked out during Saturday’s one-point loss to CSU.
His inclusion in the side for the match against Parkes was to be decided last night at training.
Flanker James Isles is out with a knee injury and Tom Raines comes in.
Saturday’s first grade match between Orange Emus and Parkes will kick-off at 3.15pm at Endeavour Oval.
n ORANGE EMUS: 1 Paul Ringland, 2 Mark Grivas, 3 Jimmy Roberts, 4 Keith Howarth, 5 Sam McLean, 6 Tom Raines, 7 Dan Brown, 8 Ben Parkes, 9 Chris Bailey, 10 TJ Cunynghame, 11 Tony Wright, 12 Andrew Swain, 13 Tim Alison, 14 Isaac White, 15 Graydon Staniforth.