THE simple fact of the matter is, Orange Hawks’ best is Group 10’s best.
No side can match the strength up front of Arty Shead and Terawhiti Cooper while a backline comprising Scott Rosser, Tim Mortimer, Jared Brodrick, Brock McGarity and Joe Lasagavibau is as capable of scoring points as any in this year’s premier league competition.
Now, the challenge in front of Mortimer ahead of the 2013 grand final is getting the best out of his side come 2.30pm tomorrow.
The same best that served them so well at the start of the season.
The two blues were red hot in April-May.
Looking every bit the side billed to be the Group’s big improvers, Hawks won their first six games to surge out in front of the minor premiership race.
A loss against Bathurst St Pat’s stalled things somewhat.
As did the loss of halfback Rosser to a broken hand.
But Mortimer’s men kept ticking along, winning another five on the trot throughout June-July before dropping the tough road trip to Lithgow 28-18 in round 15, their second and last loss of the season so far.
Since then, Hawks have been largely inconsistent.
They beat Oberon but let the Tigers run in 20 points in the process, defeated St Pat’s 26-16 and then, in the final round, had to come back from 22-0 down against a Cowra side with virtually nothing to play for.
With a spot in the finals already sewn up by then, you could argue Hawks already had one eye on the post season when they travelled to Sid Kallas Oval.
But such a start wouldn’t cut it against the likes of CYMS and Lithgow.
Mortimer knew it, and fixed it.
A week off earned thanks to the minor premiership, a rejuvenated Hawks dug deep and had a memory of a lifetime delivered as McGarity sunk CYMS with a successful 45-metre penalty goal to boot the two blues directly into the grand final courtesy of a 12-11 victory in front of a crowd that generated a gate of $17,000.
It was the biggest game in a season that has seen plenty of big contests.
And it was won with defence.
Now, the mother-of-all grand finals is just one sleep away, and this week Hawks have again been working on defence in a bid to break a premiership drought that’s now a decade long.
A prominent figure in the world of golf in the 20th century and multiple major winner Walter Hagen once famously said: “No one remembers who came second.”
After the year Hawks have had, certainly Mortimer and Hawks don’t want to become another forgotten side.
They don’t deserve to, either.
This winter has been one of firsts; Hawks won their first derby since July, 2009, their first minor premiership since 1999 and qualified for their first grand final since 2003.
With the whole of Country Rugby League watching what will be the first all-Orange Group 10 grand final played, Hawks deserve to win their first title too.