IN 2011, Orange Emus had their chance.
Mid-July three years ago, a young greens outfit with a dominant pack had won nine games and sat in fourth on that year’s Blowes Clothing Cup ladder.
A premiership wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
That train of thought firmed as the greens surged to finish the regular season in third, but losses in both the club’s qualifying and then minor semi-finals ensured Emus bowed out of the title race in inglorious fashion.
Now, in 2014, Emus have that chance again.
Andrew Logan has his men perched atop of the competition equal with Dubbo Roos and, all going well, the final round match-up with defending premiers Orange City will provide rugby devotees with the chance to whet their finals appetites a week earlier than most.
But the difference between this year and the crop in 2011 is stark.
Just ask Paul Ringland.
“I think that year (2011) we had a really strong forward pack and a pretty young backline, we did quite well, but this year our experience and quality across the park is great,” the Emus 2011 head coach said.
Now the forwards coach, Ringland works alongside the club’s strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Wallace, while also helping plan the club’s training sessions.
The former prop said the biggest change in the club he’s noticed over the course of the last three years is dedication to the cause.
And that’s evident right across the board.
“I suppose coming off last year there was an expectation to do a lot better, but we’ve probably overachieved as a group at this stage,” he said.
“The biggest thing for us is we’re getting guys to training on Tuesday and Thursday and they’re putting in the hard work. The boys are doing pretty well. They’re keeping grounded and not getting too far ahead of themselves.”
Now a marked side, Ringland believes the next two games will be Emus’ toughest in 2014.
“The next fortnight is crucial for us,” he added.
“We play Forbes and they’re a team that’s flown under the radar, they’ll make the finals, and then there’s Cowra and they’re a team on the edge of the five. They’ll be desperate to win.”
And the final round clash with City at Pride Park will be just as enthralling.
“That game is going to determine finals placings this year,” Ringland said.
“There’s always plenty of spice in that game regardless of where either team is on the ladder.”