THE last time Orange Emus lined up in the Blowes Clothing Cup first grade finals was 2011.
They finished the regular season third before losing consecutive games to Parkes (22-17) and Orange City (27-25) to bow out of the finals race.
Since then a new coach has come on board in the form of Andrew Logan, and there has been a significant number of changes to the team.
Of the side that lost the 2011 minor semi-final, hooker Tom Goolagong and halfback TJ Cunynghame are the only players still in the top grade.
So when Emus lost Saturday’s qualifying semi-final to two-time defending champions Orange City, there was no doubt experience played a part.
“We learnt a lot about finals rugby today and it’s a different beast and we need to be better,” Logan said after the tight loss.
“I think it’s probably a 20 per cent lift in intensity in finals rugby and we didn’t match it.
“The positive out of it for us was we were very close all game and we could have still stolen it at the death and we probably didn’t play that well, so we’ve got improvement in us and we can still win some games.”
Emus’ season goes on the line when they take on Bathurst Bulldogs in Sunday’s minor semi-final, with the loser out of the grand final race.
Logan said his team didn’t need to make huge changes ahead of the must-win clash.
“There’s nothing wrong with our tactics or our strategies,” he said.
“We know what we’re doing and we’re very well drilled, I think, but we’ve got to bring that intensity and the desire in contact and the desire in defence, you’ve got to bring that. In finals rugby you can’t just go through the motions and I think we went through the motions a bit [on Saturday] and got found out.”
Emus and the Bulldogs will clash at 3.15pm on Sunday at Endeavour Oval in Orange.