A REJUVENATED Orange Hawks will head into their first home game of the 2014 Group 10 season ready to put a tough local derby loss behind them.
The two blues fought hard with CYMS in last week’s season opener, leading 18-16 at half-time before eventually falling 42-24 to the reigning premier league champions.
Admitting the “stress” of derby week was now behind his side, captain-coach Tim Mortimer believes Hawks have trained well and will tackle Oberon on Saturday at Wade Park with the same tenacity that helped the two blues claim last year’s minor premiership.
“I’m feeling a lot better about this week,” Mortimer said.
“Our shape was back at training and we’re getting a few players back slowly. I’m confident we can now start worrying about what we do best, and that’s playing good footy and working on a few new combinations.”
One of the shining lights for Mortimer last week was the form of new halfback Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill.
Looking likely with most touches of the football, Gibbs-O’Neill scored two tries including a 90-metre intercept to keep Hawks in the game against CYMS at 12-all.
Happy with his new-look halves, Mortimer said further success was imminent.
“He’s taken a real leadership role which is great. It’s exactly what I wanted from him,” Mortimer said of his new No.7.
“Joey (Lasagavibau) played well last week for us too. Even though the score ended a little lopsided, I really thought it was a never-say-die effort from the boys. Fitness killed us a bit, but everyone is working hard on that.”
The 2013 Group 10 coach of the year said his soul focus tomorrow is on improving Hawks, not what an unknown Oberon brings to the table.
“We’ll be wary of them, but we’re just focused on us. I know they won 20-19 in their last game (against Bathurst Panthers) but for us, this week is just about concentrating on ourselves. We’ve got to get that right before we start looking at the opposition,” he added.
Prop Arty Shead is being given this weekend off to prepare for the round three clash with Cowra after Easter.
Alofi Mataele is also out, succumbing to an ankle injury, but backrower Kurt McNamara returns for the two blues.
Hawks host Oberon on Saturday at the earlier time-slot of 12.20pm at Wade Park.
ORANGE HAWKS: 1 Tim Mortimer, 2 Toby Wright, 3 Jared Brodrick, 4 Brock McGarity, 5 Jack Ryan, 6 Joe Lasagavibau, 7 Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill, 8 Luke Hunt, 9 Mitch Hurford, 10 Chris Anau, 11 Kurt McNamara, 12 Pat Velkoso, 13 Travis Bubb.