NSW Country Eagles will face Perth Spirit in the final of the NRC at Scully Park in Tamworth this Saturday after they proved too strong for Melbourne Rising in the semi-final.
The final is expected to be a massive occasion for Tamworth with an estimated 7000 people set to attend the game and around 100,000 expected to tune into the game – encouraging numbers for the Eagles, an outfit that’s received plenty of support from country areas throughout 2016.
“Support has been fantastic everywhere we go and we’ve been able to go back to roots,” Eagles captain Paddy Ryan said, which is no surprise considering 50 per cent of rugby participation in NSW is from country rugby.
“Every town has embraced us.”
VIDEO: See Eagles’ gun Ned Hanigan’s message to NSW Country fan Zachary, from Orange:
Despite all the support the team has received, Ryan wishes the game scheduled in Orange this year was not washed out and hopes to come back to the Central West in the future.
“It was really disappointing not being able to get to Orange this year,” the front rower said.
“We were really looking forward to get back to places like Orange and Dubbo.”
The Eagles captain praised his side’s efforts last weekend after coming from behind to defeat the Rising 50-24 and secure a final in his home town.
“Everyone played together and did their jobs well,” Ryan said.
The front-rower sung praises of his young back line, including Jake Gordon, David Horwitz and Andrew Kellaway.
“It really helps when your backs are going forward,” he said.
However, Ryan isn’t getting ahead of himself as the minor premiers are looking to continue their previous form against the Spirit, previously defeating them 48-24.
“They’re a lot tougher outfit, since we last played them,” the captain said.
“They didn’t have Pek Cowan or Bill Meakes last time so they will be a lot tougher outfit.”
Ryan also complimented the success of the NRC this year, labeling it the “best NRC yet”.
The prop expressed, it wasn’t just the quality of the rugby improving throughout the competition but also the off-field events with the other sides after games.
“Being able to go after game and have a beer with blokes like Brad Thorn is great, especially after a tough game and you have been smashing each other,” the captain said.
Ryan is tipping the Wallabies to get over the All Blacks by a try and ending their 17 tests streak.