Tigers look to make Waratahs a fortress as game plan to get a shake up

IN CHARGE: Orange Tigers coach Dale 'Croc' Hunter addresses his charges at the Country Club Oval last season. Photo: JUDE KEOGH.
IN CHARGE: Orange Tigers coach Dale 'Croc' Hunter addresses his charges at the Country Club Oval last season. Photo: JUDE KEOGH.

Orange Tigers new ground is a long one. 

Spanning well over 150 metres from end to end, the new home at Waratahs Sportsground is a far cry from the postage stamp that is the Country Club Oval last season. 

And Tigers coach Dale Hunter knows it will present a challenge for his club to change their mindset from the contested style of play they owned during their run of three flags from 2013-15 to a more free-flowing game. 

The pressure of two-way running on a massive ground – which Hunter believes is the longest in the CWAFL, despite Parkes’ ground being wider – will also force the Tigers to change their mindset. 

“I’ve kept an eye on a few of the recruits during the preseason and we’ve got a few players who might fill those roles along the wings and the flanks,” he said.

“If you’re not careful you’ll be left wanting on a ground that size.

“Wingmen and a few positions become far more important, and even your key position forwards and flankers need to come up the ground and get more involved.”

While the change in style and extreme size of the oval may help the Tigers in the long run, Hunter is unsure how the opening of the season will play out.

If you’re not careful you’ll be left wanting on a ground that size.

Tigers coach Dale Hunter

“We’ve got to get used to it as well,” he said.

The Tigers are currently unable to use the full length of the ground, as the soil at the southern end is still too tough to train on.

However, the goal posts are in thanks to the Gibson family, which Hunter says has helped make the club feel at home – as have the community at Waratahs.

“We want to stress the acceptance we’ve felt at Waratahs – they couldn’t have done more to be more helpful and accommodating,” he said.

“It was a big milestone getting the posts up and changing the whole feeling to make it resoundingly feel like a home for AFL.

“It’s giving us consistency and that’s helping with training.”

Hunter said he was hopeful the new home and a bigger playing group – numbers are nearly double what they were at this time last year – would help the Tigers bring home some silverware in 2018. 

“We’ve had a few blokes come back as well such as Chris and Mike Rothnie and Nick Evans and they slot straight back in and bring high intensity to training,” he said. 

The leadership group would be coming together over the next few weeks, with Hunter predicting a vote would leave the group similar to how it was last year.

“The guys that did it last year did a fantastic job so it’ll be something similar,” he said. 

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