IF THERE is a better endorsement for rugby league in the region than Sunday’s major semi-final blockbuster between Orange Hawks and Orange CYMS, then I am yet to see it.
I’ll admit, this column will be an unabashed testament to the beauty of the greatest game of all.
But I know I’m not alone when I say take a bow Orange Hawks and Orange CYMS as we all hail Brock McGarity, because Sunday’s game was as good a finish to a match of rugby league as you’ll see in country NSW.
Over 2000 people, both CYMS and Hawks fans, would agree with me.
With three minutes and 20 seconds on the clock and a Mick Sullivan field goal sailing between the posts, Hawks looked dead and buried.
They received a 20-metre optional restart with just 60 seconds on the clock, and from there made 35 metres in three tackles to edge into CYMS’ half of the field just as the 40-second mark ticked over.
Then Hawks got the penalty.
The big games produce the big plays.
And McGarity stepped up to produce the biggest since Mudgee’s Corin Smith scored in the dying stages of the 2009 grand final to see the Dragons win 32-29 over Lithgow, coming back from a 13-point deficit with 14 minutes remaining.
Tim Mortimer will tell you his centre’s successful 45-metre penalty goal is still going up, that’s how well his right boot struck it.
It was simply an incredible moment to witness - this year’s ‘remember when’ play two weeks before it was meant to happen.
And that’s the exciting part, especially for Orange.
Wade Park was the sun in the Country Rugby League cosmos on Sunday, playing host to the biggest game and the biggest crowd in the state outside of Sydney.
And it’ll remain that way for the next fortnight.
On Sunday CYMS host defending premiers Lithgow Workies in the preliminary final, a game that won’t be short of a back story given the 16-month banning of Workies skipper Jono Van Veen as a result of the two sides’ last meeting.
It’ll be huge.
Then, the winner of that match tackles Hawks in the decider.
On the back of a record gate for a major semi-final in Sunday’s Hawks-CYMS cracker, Group 10 officials must surely be praying it’s the green and golds that progress through to the decider.
The match-up will break all sorts of attendance records for a bush grand final.
I’ve seen enough football this season to know the big plays don’t begin and certainly won’t end with McGarity’s match-winner this season.
The next two weeks of Group 10 footy at Wade Park will dish up plenty of bang-for-your-back football, and whoever comes out on top will have well and truly earned the title as a result.
Whether it’s great to be green or better to be blue, surely it’s outstanding to be Orange.
Bring on the next two weeks.