ORANGE Hawks caretaker coach Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill has a simple strategy to beat the Mudgee Dragons in Saturday’s Group 10 premier league clash - “shut down their guns”.
Gibbs-O’Neill said shutting down Dragons’ captain-coach Jack Afamasaga and centre pairing Corin Smith and Tom Lewsley is crucial to Hawks’ chances of beating the competition leaders.
Easier said than done.
Afamasaga has dominated the player of the year polling in 2014, while Smith and Lewsley have combined to score over half of Mudgee’s points this season.
To top it off, the Dragons won’t lack motivation after an uncharacteristic loss to Bathurst Panthers last weekend - their first of the season.
“That’s the scariest part of it, the best teams always come out hard off a big loss,” Gibbs-O’Neill said.
“Especially in Mudgee, I think we can expect a pretty horrible time]. Afamasaga is ridiculous the way he offloads, shutting that down is important. But their centres are their main strike weapons.
“Smith is incredible and [Lewsley] flies under the radar. Our centres and wingers have a big job [today], if we shut them down I think we’ll win.”
Hawks may have one less problem to deal with however, with Afamasaga in doubt for the clash
“I’m not sure if I have to work,” Afamasaga said.
“It was bound to happen. I was going to miss a week with rep football or injury but it will be no problem for the boys.”
Gibbs-O’Neill said a simple brand of rugby league is required on Saturday, and his side will look to run Mudgee’s big pack around.
“We need to be smart about how we approach Mudgee,” he said.
“We can’t bash it up the middle, they’ve got a big pack. We need to work to our kicks and turn them around all day. “I also noticed (Bathurst) Panthers really worked as a pack in defence, with three or four blokes in tackles. We’ll take that approach as well.”
Kick off is 1.30pm at Mudgee’s Glen Willow Sporting Complex.
ORANGE HAWKS: 1 Joe Lasagavibau, 2 Alofi Mataele, 3 Jared Brodrick, 4 Lawrence Fogg, 5 Justin Howarth, 6 Brock McGarity, 7 Keegan Harding, 8 Arty Shead, 9 Mitch Hurford, 10 Jason Greenhalgh, 11 Kyle Byrnes, 12 TBA, 13 Travis Bubb. Bench: 14 Kian Shead, 15 Nathan Potts, 16 Si Vainiaku Honemau, 17 Chris Anau.