Orange City hasn’t missed a Blowes Clothing Cup post-season in almost a decade, to be exact 2009 was the last time the Lions bowed out before the finals.
Given that, the Lions face the very unfamiliar situation of having their finals hopes go on the line against Dubbo Rhinos on Saturday, almost two months out from the end of the regular season.
Win, and the Lions should push into the top five again.
Lose, and Orange City could slump to seventh.
Considering Cowra’s resurgence, without a couple of major upsets in the abominable fortnight City faces after this weekend a loss could spell the end of the Lions’ post-season aspirations.
After Rhinos, Orange City faces undefeated competition-leaders Emus and then last year’s runners-up Forbes back-to-back.
But, while he acknowledged that, Orange City stalwart Duncan Young said his side can’t afford to be thinking of those showdowns with the greens and Platypi.
Not when its coming up against a Rhinos side in a similar position.
Rhinos are eighth, eight points behind the Lions and another three adrift of Parkes in fifth.
A bonus point win would slash that gap while a loss would all but resign the Dubbo side to the bottom five for the remainder of the season.
“We’re not really in the position to look further than this weekend,” Young said.
“Where we are, every game is [of equal importance] so we’re just focusing on heading over to Dubbo and trying to play good rugby for the full 80 minutes, then we’ll worry about who we play next.”
From the outside, Saturday’s is a game the Lions are expected to win.
Rhinos haven’t been going along all that well, but neither have we.
Last time around, on May 6, the Lions thumped Dubbo 52-19.
Since then, Rhinos have only managed one more victory.
“Rhinos haven’t been going along all that well, but neither have we,” Young said, referring to the fact his side has only won two of eight starts since that round four trouncing as well.
“It’s in Dubbo too, you never really know what Rhinos will put together but they’re always stronger at home.”
There is still plenty of confidence floating around the Orange City camp, the Lions deserve to have that considering the stunning rugby they’ve played, at times, against the competition’s top sides.
In round three the Lions kept pace with second-placed Bathurst Bulldogs for most of the game.
A fortnight later, despite being seriously undermanned, Orange City went toe-to-toe with fourth-placed Forbes for a lengthy period.
Then, just two weeks ago, the Lions matched the third-placed Dubbo Kangaroos completely for the opening 40 minutes.
“When we play the rugby we’re capable of, the rugby we’ve played in spurts, I think we can beat anybody,” Young fired.
“We just haven’t done that for anywhere near long enough in one game yet, we haven’t put together an 80-minute performance.”
With a number of colts expected to line-up again, Young said he and the rest of the side’s leaders will look to drive that never-say-die attitude, for so long synonymous with Orange City.
But, as he also said, it has to be a focus for everyone else on the paddock too.
“It’s on everyone,” he said.
“When you have 15 players all focused on playing their roles and doing their jobs for the entire game, then it becomes a lot easier to put it together as a team.”
Kick off at Caltex Park is at 3.15pm.
HOW THE LIONS HAVE ROARED SINCE 2009:
- 2010: Third, defeated 14-12 by Bathurst Bulldogs in the preliminary final.
- 2011: Third, defeated 20-13 by Parkes Boars in the preliminary final.
- 2012: Premiers, defeated Dubbo Kangaroos 30-16 in the grand final.
- 2013: Premiers, defeated Parkes Boars 32-16 in the grand final.
- 2014: Third, defeated 18-16 by Orange Emus in the preliminary final.
- 2015: Runners-up, defeated 31-15 by Orange Emus in the grand final.
- 2016: Fifth, defeated 39-34 by Bathurst Bulldogs in the elimination semi-final.