Hawks make the most of horror start to the season to be sitting on top

You’d be brave to discount Orange Hawks at any point of the year, but even the keenest of fans would have been looking at the start of the two blues’ fixture and worrying they might be caught off the pace. 

With six away games in the opening nine rounds, and one of those few home clashes the derby against reigning premiers CYMS, Hawks skipper Willie Heta knew it would be a tough opening run. 

"We did set ourselves some goals at the start of the season and we wanted to be up around the top four going into the second half of the season, considering the run of away games we had," he said. 

"But we're very, very happy to be sitting on top, that's a bit of a bonus. If we can continue to maintain what's been working for us through the second half of the season, I think we'll stay strong."

If the rest of the competition was hoping Hawks would become complacent after their red-hot start to the year, they’ll be disappointed, with Heta saying there would be no rest for his group. 

"We won't be having a break. You can't take your foot off the gas, that's when you might fall into a lazy patch or slip back into some bad habits," he said. 

"It will be good without the game for guys with a few niggles to recover a bit and get back to full fitness, but otherwise we'll just be working on the areas we need to get better in that I've spoken about before."

The biggest of those areas is the one area which could be considered an Achilles heel – their right edge. 

Despite thrashing Mudgee 54-12 in their last Group 10 game, both Dragons tries came along that right edge in moments where the Hawks slipped, which has been another issue.

When the Hawks are on, they’re on, but have developed a tendency to slip in and out of games, which showed in the derby against CYMS a fortnight ago, where after taking a 42-24 advantage before letting their rivals back into the game to nearly clinch the win. 

That they were able to hold on speaks volumes of their side’s temperament, which despite still having Nathan Potts to come back from a badly broken jaw has been ably lead by Heta, with Rakai Tuheke and Jake Blimka, and star Ethan McKellar all making big contributions, while also boasting some of the best big men in the game in Sia Nemani, Saul Houma and Tatafu Na’aniumotu. 

With plenty of away games out of the way, if Hawks can play a consistent 80 minutes each week they will be smelling blood in the water on their run home.