Ryan McCauley’s no stranger to Orange.
The hulking NSW Country Eagles lock grew up in the colour city, went to school at Calare Public School and played his early football years in the green and gold of Orange CYMS.
Moving to Sydney after finishing up in Year Six at Calare, McCauley took up rugby union at Matraville Sports High before finishing his schooling at renowned rugby nursery Scots College.
After a pre-season with the NSW Waratahs in January, the 19-year-old second-rower says his game has gone to a new level and he’s determined to prove that at Endeavour Oval on Saturday when the Eagles face off against the National Rugby Championship (NRC) guns Perth Spirit in Orange.
“It was a great learning curve,” McCauley said.
“Training alongside guys who’ve played with the Tahs for six, seven, 10 years, you get a pretty good feel for how things are done at that level.”
After four rounds of this season’s NRC title race, the eagles have soared to the top of the ladder, undefeated too, knocking off Sydney Rays 36-16 to leap four points clear on top of the ladder.
A win over the fourth-placed Perth Spirit will all but secure the Eagles a place in the finals this season.
After banking a thrilling 32-20 win over the Melbourne Rising in the club’s last trip country to Tamworth, McCauley was confident the country crowd would get his side over the line.
“Everyone in our side is either from the country or has a link to it through other family. Everyone loves coming out and we can’t wait to arrive in Orange,” he said.
“For me, obviously I went to school there. I loved the town. It was a great place to live and country rugby is an important area of game.
“It’ll be great to play a game in Orange.”
The Eagles arrive on Friday ahead of Saturday’s game, with the team likely to feature country boys Ned Hanigan and Tom Robertson, from Coonamble and Dubbo respectively.