Fresh off their bye, Group 10 premier league top dogs Orange Hawks are ready to face a desperate and daring Bathurst St Pat’s in Saturday’s 14th round clash at Wade Park.
While the two blues are three points clear on top of the table and guaranteed a spot in the finals already the Saints remain just outside the top five and, despite being tipped as contenders early, face an uphill battle in the last month of the season.
Considering they’ve got a round 17 bye as well, Saturday’s clash becomes a must-win game for the Saints, and Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta knows that, and he’s expecting the Bathurst outfit to come out all guns blazing.
“I spoke to the boys about that this week, [St Pat’s have] to make their run at finals now,” Heta said.
“If we can weather the storm and keep the boat calm it’ll make for a good challenge.”
The Saints will be looking to rebound after a 30-point loss to cross-city rivals Panthers last weekend, the men in black sit in third spot on the table.
Heta doesn’t know the St Pat’s side incredibly well, but said based on the last time they faced off – which ended in a 20-16 win for the two blues – along with highlights and replays, he’s expecting the Bathurst side’s forward pack to make their presence felt.
But of course Heta’s side boasts its own monstrous pack, all of whom are fit and firing after a week off. Heta said the two blues kept it light last week to let the niggles heal, before ramping things up again in the lead-up to Saturday’s game.
“I like to think we start fast after a bye, I’ve been talking to the the boys to make sure we’re not too complacent,” Heta said.
The two blues will also welcome back Brett Morgan and aside from the injured Sam Coyte and Nathan Potts and an unavailable Sia Nemani, they’re expected to be at full strength this weekend, which is all the Orange outfit is focused on.
“If you ask most of the boys who we’re playing the week after next, most of them won’t be able to tell you and that’s the way we like it, just focused on one week at a time and the rest will sort itself out,” Heta said.
Hawks host St Pat’s from 2.30pm on Saturday at Wade Park.
- ORANGE HAWKS: 1 Jake Blimka, 2 Eman Rodriguez, 3 Kyle Robbins, 4 Duncan Young, 5 Jackson Coote, 6 Willie Heta ©, 7 Ray Talimalie, 8 Saul Houma, 9 Liam Brodrick, 10 Ethan McKellar, 11 Talon Hodge, 12 Brett Morgan, 13 Rakai Tuheke; Bench: 14 Brodie Christopherson, 14 Tatafu Na’aniumotu, 15 Glen Maxwell, 17 Nick Foliaki