AS Orange City continue to win and win well over the rest of the Blowes Clothing Cup competition, not only is the margin the Lions boast over the other nine sides in the Central West growing, so too is the size of the target on their backs.
The best attack and defence in the business having scored 270 points and conceded just 46, Orange City is a team possessed.
Their 8-0 start to the season defies their 3-5 beginning to 2011.
It means every team in the competition is now gunning for them.
“Each week people say we’re now the benchmark, so I guess that’s something we’ll have to address,” injured Lions skipper Josh Maley said. “We’re going to have to turn up week in week out.”
So far, so good.
The closest any side has come to beating Orange City is 12 points.
A run of eight straight wins kicked off with a 19-3 win over premiers Parkes before victories versus the Dubbo Roos (17-5), Forbes (38-3), Cowra (45-12), Dubbo Rhinos (71-7), Narromine (31-8) and a top-of-the-table win against CSU Bathurst (24-5).
City’s most recent win was probably more satisfying than the seven prior, with a 25-3 win over the Bulldogs in Bathurst one to savour.
It’s a loss against the Bulldogs that drives the Lions of 2012.
In 2010, Orange City went down 14-12 against Bathurst one game short of the grand final.
And just last season it happened again.
On the cusp of their first grand final berth since 2007, Orange City fell just short going down 20-13 in the competition’s final, this time at the hands of the Parkes Boars.
Both Bathurst and Parkes went on to win the title.
“It’s made everyone play with a lot more enthusiasm this year,” Maley said looking back at the consecutive final losses.
“We’ve got a few blokes who are getting towards the end of their careers and they know their chances to win one with the club are running out.”
As Maley makes mention, there are a number of familiar faces in this year’s squad who have tasted the hurt of close losses in 2010 and 2011.
But it’s the new blood in the team that has made its mark.
Dan Johnson has added punch in the pack.
So too has Maley’s replacement Mitch Pearce.
Throw in stand-in captain and fly-half Michael Sparks, wing sensation Sione Lafo’ou and centre Maesui Lomoto and the Lions’ backline is roaring.
“I think now we’ve got a bit more strike power in the backs,” he said.
“We leaked a few points in our backs last year and those guys have helped with defence but have that flair too.”
For Maley, who is out for up to 12 months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament as well as fracturing bone in his knee, the flair must make for some entertaining viewing.
“It’s pretty hard to watch actually,” he said.
“I’ve been through a few hard times with the club. It’s good to see the boys doing well but I’d love to be part of it.”
And City’s next game is one Maley would give his good leg for to be part of.
Orange Emus is the next team trying to hit the target on City’s back when the first derby of 2012 kicks off at Pride Park on June 16.