Orange Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta is over the moon at his side’s final four effort at the Mudgee Nines but he made it very clear that he’s expecting his troops’ intensity and focus to move up another notch in this weekend’s Bathurst Panthers Knockout.
The two blues were knocked out of last weekend’s nines tournament by eventual champions The Entrance, but a lot of that group won’t be named for Hawks’ knockout campaign, which kicks off in Saturday’s second round after being drawn the first-up bye.
“It was really great experience for a lot of guys over at Mudgee, who haven’t played much of that form of the game,” Heta said.
“It was a great weekend and, honestly, I actually think we were probably unlucky to go out in the semi-finals the way we did.
“As we did last year we really wanted to reward the guys that have been training and training hard, which we do this weekend too but this will be a very different group, with a very different focus being the 13-man game now.”
Hawks will face the winner of Orange CYMS and Mudgee, and the two blues faithful that make the trek to Bathurst’s Carrington Park will get their first real look at boom recruits Saulala Houma and Raki Tuheke.
It’ll be Orange City Lions stalwart Duncan Young’s second run with the two blues as well, Eman Rodriguez’s as well, while returning half Brodie Christopherson takes his place in the No.7 jersey as expected.
The combination Christopherson will form with Heta in the halves has many Hawks fans licking their lips, especially after Christopherson’s excellent form in the Western Rams’ under-23 outfit.
“I’m really, really excited to see some of the new guys, and the guys that have come back, in action,” Heta said.
“It’ll be a really good hit-out for us and I’ll definitely be going down on Friday night to have a look at CYMS and Mudgee’s game, we play the winner of that one.
I’m really, really excited to see some of the new guys, and the guys that have back, in action.Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta
“You never know, we might be able to pick up a few tips from the side that doesn’t win too.”
It’ll be one of Hawks’ last hit-outs before their round one trip to face Bathurst Panthers on April 8, a clash Heta said he’s really looking forward to.
In fact, he said he can’t wait for the season in general.
“I’m really excited for it, it’s been a bit easier for me this pre-season having that year under my belt,” Heta said.
“All the things like being able to talk to the guys, new and old, about what to expect in Group 10 and that sort of thing, last year was a big help because I know a lot more about the competition.
“Honestly though, I’m just really happy to be able to go around at Hawks and I’m really excited for this year, really looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
Hawks’ first game of the Bathurst Panthers Knockout is the second on Saturday and kicks off at 10.15am, Friday’s first game is at 5.30pm.
- ORANGE HAWKS: 1 Jake Blimka, 2 Eman Rodriguez, 3 Jack Aumuller, 4 Duncan Young, 5 Jordan Baker, 6 Willie Heta ©, 7 Brodie Christopherson, 8 Ethan McKellar, 9 Liam Brodrick, 10 Saulala Houma, 11 Raki Tuheke, 12 Kyle Byrnes, 13 Nathan Potts; Bench: 14 Jordan Dwyer, 15 Ethan Bereyne, 16 Brett Morgan, 17 Kyle Robbins