ORANGE Hawks’ captain-coach Tim Mortimer made a bold decision to name 19-year-old Keegan Harding at halfback for the two blues’ Group 10 premier league round seven clash with Lithgow Workies two months ago.
Hawks had lost five of its opening six games, and drawn one, and looked a shadow of the team which finished runners-up in 2013.
Harding was raw, with just three seasons of rugby league under his belt after defecting from football and had roughly 40 minutes of top grade experience having come off the bench in several of Hawks’ losses.
The decision could have been a disaster but instead turned out to be a masterstroke.
Coincidentally, the two blues have yet to lose a game with Harding wearing the No.7 jersey.
Since his inclusion Hawks have won seven games in a row, and will be looking for an eighth consecutive victory against the Cowra Magpies on Sunday at Wade Park.
“We’ve been playing really good footy, I’ve really been enjoying it,” Harding said.
“It’s been unreal. I’ve been learning more with every training session and every game.”
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Mortimer agreed, heaping praise on the young pivot.
“Keegan has been learning and improving every week, he’s a very valuable asset to the club,” Mortimer said.
“He still has things to work on, but he’s only young. He’s got a great kicking game, a great running game and has a good head on his shoulders.
“He keeps getting more and more confident and is playing great footy.”
Harding came off the bench in round three’s 21-18 loss to the third placed Magpies, but said it was enough to gauge how tough a job the fourth-placed Hawks are faced with on Sunday.
“Our defence will need to be switched on, Cowra are a very good attacking side,” Harding said.
“If we can keep our structure in attack and defence, and just play our game we should be alright. Good kicking will be important, which is my role. If I can kick well, and maybe get a bit more involved I’ll be happy.”
Hawks and Cowra kick-off at 2pm on Sunday.
ORANGE HAWKS: 1 Joe Lasagavibau, 2 Justin Howarth, 3 Jared Brodrick, 4 Brock McGarity, 5 Alofi Mataele, 6 Tim Mortimer (c), 7 Keegan Harding, 8 Arty Shead, 9 Mitch Hurford, 10 Chris Anau, 11 Kyle Byrnes, 12 Lawrence Fogg, 13 Travis Bubb.