ORANGE Hawks captain-coach Tim Mortimer is predicting the 2014 Group 10 premier league competition to be one of the closest on record.
On the eve of the premiership’s opening round blockbuster against defending premiers Orange CYMS at Wade Park, Mortimer says the rising strength of the rest of the Group 10 competition will mean points are at a premium all year.
“Across all teams, this year’s competition is going to be very even. I’m sure of that,” Mortimer said.
“Any points we can get will be crucial.”
Minor premiers last season after six wins from the club’s opening six rounds catapulted the two blues to the top of the competition ladder, Hawks know better than most just how vital a strong start to the season can be.
“If we can get a leg up at the start of the season the confidence we’ll gain will get us through a few games throughout the year,” Mortimer said.
Mortimer has shifted himself to fullback for tomorrow’s derby clash with CYMS in just one of a raft of changes to the side that ran out for the club on grand final day last season.
With Western Division halfback Scott Rosser and Group 10 prop Terawhiti Cooper moving on, Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill will partner dynamic Fijian Joe Lasagavibau in the halves while Chris Anau will push up into the frontrow.
Last year’s under 18s skipper Travis Bubb will start in the backrow alongside Daniel Lang.
Toby Wright is another new addition on the wing.
Mortimer said while the new combinations may take some time to click, depth will be the ace up Hawks’ sleeve throughout 2014.
“Our back-up players are great players, better than last year,” Mortimer said.
“We’re confident. We’ve had a good pre-season and we’ll have a light training run (tonight) to gel a bit more. I’m looking forward to it.”
Hawks play CYMS on Sunday from 2.30pm.
The ladies league tag derby will kick start the day at 10.30am.
ORANGE HAWKS: 1 Tim Mortimer, 2 Alofi Mataele, 3 Jared Brodrick, 4 Brock McGarity, 5 Toby Wright, 6 Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill, 7 Joe Lasagavibau, 8 Arty Shead, 9 Mitch Hurford, 10 Chris Anau, 11 Travis Bubb, 12 Daniel Lang, 13 Todd Barrow.