THERE’S a host of new faces helping Orange Emus light up the 2014 Blowes Clothing Cup premiership.
Of the 15 players coach Andrew Logan named on Thursday to tackle Orange City in Saturday’s local derby at Endeavour Oval, just six - Brent Braithwaite, TJ Cunynghame, Adam Perri, Tom Green, Tim Alison and skipper Nigel Staniforth - featured in the club’s final game of the 2013 season.
A 32-18 loss to the Lions at Endeavour Oval, that defeat in August last year marked the end of a wooden spoon campaign.
Now, a rejuvenated force boasting attacking weapons more lethal than Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh in the late ‘80s, Emus are one of the form teams over the course of the opening eight rounds of this season and head into Saturday’s derby with their best shot at crosstown supremacy since 2011.
And, of all the new faces, there’s one that’s been sitting under the club’s nose for the last five years.
About to tackle his maiden first grade local derby, Sam McLean has been with the Emus since 2009 and is busting to clash with a “physical” Lions pack on Saturday at Endeavour Oval.
“It’ll be a tough game,” McLean said.
“Both sides are playing well and very physical at the moment. I’m looking forward to it.”
A graduate of Kinross’ First XV in 2008, McLean made the move to Emus colts in 2009 and helped the club claim the Central West Rugby Union’s then under 19s premiership.
This season is the first McLean has been able to cement a place in Emus’ first grade side.
“I’ve played a lot of second grade in the last couple of years and it’s good to have a shot at the top grade,” he added.
The 23-year-old believes if his side can secure set-piece ascendancy “we’ll be laughing”.
“We need to get over them in the forwards in general,” he said, nominating second-row partner Nick Hughes-Clapp as a vital cog in the forward battle.
“He knows what needs to be done and gets it all working properly.”
Saturday’s derby pits the second-placed Lions against the third-placed Emus in one of the most eagerly anticipated derbies since the two met in the 2011 minor semi-final at Endeavour Oval.
The difference between that day - a thrilling 27-25 victory to the Lions - and the final round loss also to Orange City in 2013 is the belief at the Emus club in 2014.
“The feel is good, everyone is excited and everyone is turning up and putting in which is good,” McLean said.
“There’s a good atmosphere at the club at the moment after the success early this year. Loges is driving it, which is good. Both teams going well, I think everyone will turn up. I’m looking forward to it.”
Saturday’s derby kicks off at 3.15pm.
ORANGE EMUS: 1 Nas Havealeta, 2 Tom Goolagong, 3 Brent Braithwaite, 4 Nick Hughes-Clapp, 5 Sam McLean, 6 Alo Finau, 7 Andrew Cosgrove, 8 Rob Thorburn, 9 TJ Cunynghame, 10 Adam Perri, 11 Tom Green, 12 Tim Alison, 13 Nigel Staniforth, 14 Carter Hirini, 15 Sam Ryan.