Lions tackle issues: Gray demands slow starts must stop now - Video

BACK TO HIS BEST: Orange City's Cameron Cole has been strong since switching to fullback for the Lions.

BACK TO HIS BEST: Orange City's Cameron Cole has been strong since switching to fullback for the Lions.

IN winning the 2012 and 2013 titles with an unbridled mix of defence and discipline, defending Blowes Clothing Cup premiers Orange City handed the rest of the competition the formula for success.

Fully aware the secret is now out, Lions co-coach Mick Gray is desperate to avoid giving those same sides any more help.

A worrying trend for this year’s Orange City outfit, Gray says the 26-point head-start the Lions gave arch rivals Emus in last weekend’s final round match-up must be avoided when the two lock horns in Saturday’s qualifying semi-final at Endeavour Oval.

In short, there’s no more freebies coming out of Pride Park anytime soon.

“We can’t afford that any more,” Gray said of his side’s slow starts.

“We’re recovering pretty well, but against the good sides we can’t afford to be giving away any points at the start.

Watch our video preview of this weekend's semi-finals:

“The standard of the competition has lifted. And I think a lot of opposition sides have picked up on a few of the basics we did well; being fit, good defence and good discipline.”

But applying those same basics to finals football is a completely different story.

One the Lions know very well.

“People react to pressure in funny ways,” Gray said, with the winner of Saturday’s clash booking a major semi-final date with minor premiers Dubbo Roos next weekend.

“I’m sure Emus will have played some pressure games throughout the season, but it’s a different competition now.

“It’s just a question of attitude.”

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Stung by injuries in the last month of the regular season - captain Josh Maley is a week-to-week proposition after injuring his ribs, while Mesui Lemoto and Michael Sparks will play injured - Gray was hopeful the Lions can lift a gear in tomorrow‘s opening semi-final of the 2014 season.

“I hope so. The guys know we’re at the business end of the year and if they want three in a row then they’re going to have to work a bit harder to get it,” he said.

“A clean bill of health would be nice though.”

Orange City and Orange Emus clash from 3.15pm.

ORANGE CITY LIONS: 1 Darcy Garlick, 2 Josh Tremain, 3 Scott Smith, 4 Mitch Pearce, 5 Chris Barrett, 6 Steve Levitt, 7 Duncan Young, 8 Gus Brotherton, 9 Tom Nell, 10 Michael Sparks, 11 Sam Powell, 12 Mesui Lemoto, 13 Jake Davis, 14 Manu Halasima, 15 Cameron Cole.