The pain of 2016 is driving Orange Emus in this weekend’s Blowes Clothing Cup third grade preliminary final.
The greens suffered a heart-breaking 11-8 loss to Bulldogs at Forbes in last year’s preliminary final, where they’ll once again face the Bulldogs on Saturday.
It’s also a rematch of this year’s qualifying semi-final, at Forbes a fortnight ago, which Bulldogs won 12-5 in an absolute thriller.
“It’s funny the way it’s worked out, exactly the same as last year,” Emus second-rower and long-term servant Ben Bright said.
“That’s what’s driving us. We know what it feels like to lose at this stage of the season and we don’t want it to happen again.”
Of course, the prospect of joining the greens’ first and second grade sides in a home decider in the club’s 70th anniversary season is a pretty big motivating factor as well.
“Absolutely, being the 70th year and knowing we’ve already got two grades through, we want to be there with them on grand final day,” Bright said.
“We don’t want our season to end in Forbes. Win, lose or draw, we at least want the chance to play in a grand final at our home ground.
“That would be against Orange City too, so you can see we’ve got no lack of motivation. It’s just about going out and getting the job done now.”
Defeating Bulldogs is a job Emus haven’t been able to do yet in 2017.
Saturday will be the fourth time the two sides have met so far this season, Bulldogs winning 18-12 in round and 23-7 in round 18 before the qualifying semi-final.
“No, we haven’t beaten them yet this year but we know we can,” Bright said.
“So much of, I think, comes down to us controlling the ball. Our defence was incredible in that qualifying semi-final two weeks ago, it kept us in the game, if we’d been a bit better with the ball we probably would’ve won that game.
“Starving Bulldogs of the ball is important. They did that to us, then we did exactly the same thing to Dubbo (Kangaroos) last weekend (in the minor semi-final).
“We’ve got a really strong side so if we can all click, I see no reason why we can’t win this one.”
Bulldogs coach Ash Goninan is equally as confident his side can progress, based on what he saw in that qualifying final.
“The tries that they scored against us were quite soft, we missed a lot of first-up tackles, and then in the second half it was only 5-0 and we dropped a lot of ball in their territory,” he said.
“We came off that game two weeks ago knowing we left a lot of points out there. Even though we won 12-5, we walked off knowing we left a decent amount of points out there with missed penalty goals and dropped balls.
“We’ve only got to convert half of those and the scoreline blows out a lot more.”
But, he knows the greens are a dangerous side, crediting the entire Emus club’s depth and saying that will be on show again.
“It’s going to be another tough game. Emus is a very strong club, they’ve got their second grade side already into the grand final, so I’m assuming their reserve bench will be strong as well,” he said.
“We all know it’s going to be a tough game and you’ve got to play each game on its merits.”
Kick-off in Saturday’s third grade clash is at 12.10pm.