Lion in wait: chance for new blood at start of 2014

IN 2012 a desire to go that extra mile took Orange City to the Blowes Clothing Cup flag, the club’s first top grade title in 19 years.

A year on the club’s 40th anniversary and the passing of two Lions greats lifted City to back-to-back undefeated first grade premierships, this time with a resounding 32-16 defeat of 2011 champions Parkes.

Now in 2014, opportunity at Pride Park is set to again lift the Lions.

Set to maintain the same roster that took out the 2013 premiership with 18 consecutive wins, Orange City will however be without premiership players Gus Brotherton, John Colgan and Nick Quinn to begin a three-peat campaign.

All three are playing rugby in Holland over the course of the off season.

Lions co-coach Steve Hamson believes their absence to start 2014 will give a host of players knocking on the door of first grade selection last season an opportunity to prove their wares, not the least of which will be former skipper Josh Maley.

“There’s certainly an opportunity there now, especially for Josh there at number eight,” Hamson said, also highlighting Ben Hockey, Tom Nell, Soni Koopu and Jake Davis as potential first graders come 2014.

“We should be at full strength. Michael Sparks is still in Brisbane and hasn’t committed 100 per cent yet, but we’ll have Junior (Sione Lafa’ou) and Maxi (Mesui Lemoto) both back. They’ll be back for the 10s.”

Orange City will begin pre-season training on Thursday, January 23.

Trials will be played against Wagga Ag College and Cumnock as well as the Orange City 10s in February.

Hamson said given continuity already exists throughout the Lions, fitness would be the only pre-season issue.

The super coach also highlighted the return of the Mudgee Wombats, Dubbo’s Peter Nau moving to the coast to play rugby and Hayden Tidswell returning for the Bathurst Bulldogs as interesting points for the 2014 season.

“CSU have a different coach too which will make them a different kettle of fish, so there’s plenty to keep us on our toes this season,” he said, before referring back to another opportunity.

“I guess you could say there’s the opportunity to achieve a hat-trick as well, but even last year we weren’t worried about that we did the year before. I’d like to think the boys will turn up again and just take each week as it comes.

“If we do that and end up in a similar position to last season, then all well and good. But we’re not worrying about last year.”

Lions pre-season training begins on Thursday, January 23.

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