THE similarities between Orange Emus’ 2014 Blowes Clothing Cup season and the last time they played finals rugby - 2011’s disappointing capitulation - are becoming uncanny.
In 2011 Emus went on a winning streak of more than 10 games leading into the finals, defeated Orange City in a round 18 local derby, finished in the top three, suffered a heartbreaking loss in the qualifying final and were forced to host a do-or-die minor semi-final.
So far, 2014 has been identical.
Emus lost said elimination game three seasons ago and, haunted by the ghost of seasons past, TJ Cunynghame and Tom Goolagong are hell-bent on “making 2014 different”.
Playing halfback and hooker respectively, the pair are the only two remaining players from the 2011 season, and both said that disappointing season is motivation for this Sunday’s minor semi-final clash with Bathurst Bulldogs.
“The last few seasons have been pretty disappointing, fourth (2011), sixth (2012) and last (2013),” Cunynghame said.
“Thinking on those finishes is an easy way to motivate yourself, that and all the hard work we’ve put in. I think we’re stronger this year, with more desire to win.”
“This season is definitely different,” Goolagong said.
“We don’t want to hit Monday and be looking back on the year that could have been.”
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Both lambasted last Saturday’s performance in the greens’ 35-29 loss to Orange City, but were adamant their side wouldn’t make the same mistakes against Bulldogs on Sunday.
“We were overwhelmed, we went away from our structures which had served us so well,” Goolagong said.
“Orange City gave us a valuable lesson in finals rugby, which we need to learn from.”
“We just couldn’t get in the game, we were constantly on the back foot against City,” Cunynghame added.
“Bulldogs have a big forward pack, we know what to expect. Defence will be crucial, making sure they don’t get a roll on.”
“Definitely, our line speed is very important,” Goolagong went on the say.
“We can’t afford them any momentum, and we need to stop them from getting over the advantage line. From there, we back our attacking phase play to score points.”
Both sides have injury concerns with Emus five-eighth Adam Perri in doubt due to a leg injury, and Bulldogs star No.8 Hayden Tidswell not named at all thanks to a knee complaint.
Emus and Bulldogs kick-off at 3.15pm at Endeavour Oval.
ORANGE EMUS: 1 Nas Havealeta, 2 Tom Goolagong, 3 Brent Braithwaite, 4 Nick Hughes-Clapp, 5 Sam McLean, 6 Andrew Cosgrove, 7 Alo Finau, 8 Rob Thorburn, 9 TJ Cunynghame, 10 Adam Perri, 11 Tom Green, 12 Tim Alison, 13 Nigel Staniforth (c), 14 Carter Hirini, 15 Sam Ryan.