Orange City has been the most dominant side throughout this year’s Central West Junior Rugby Union under-15 competition but, as Lions co-coach George Connaughton readily admits, that won’t necessarily equate to premiership success.
After winning the minor premiership with 11 wins from 12 starts and an insane points difference of 427, the Lions dispatched of second-finishers Dubbo Kangaroos Blue with ease in last weekend’s major semi-final.
They won 48-10 to earn a grand final berth and with it a week off, while it brings bucketloads of confidence there’s no denying that kind of dominance often breeds complacency.
That’s why Connaughton and fellow mentor John Nunn are doing everything they can to make sure the side doesn’t rest on its laurels.
“It’s about getting the guys in the right frame of mind, that’s what we’ve spoken about at training this week and something we’ll work on all the way up to the grand final,” Connaughton said.
“There was a point earlier this season when I overheard a few boys at training sort of saying ‘we’ve got this wrapped up, it’s ours’, but we flogged them at training for about a month after that, to get that rid of those kind of thoughts.
“We’ve been quite dominant all season but we have to make sure we’re ready for the grand final, because that’s the one that really counts.”
Outside a couple of season-ending injuries – including one to NSW under-15 rep Aden Fraser – Connaughton confirmed his side will be at full-strength for the decider as well, which will be against either Dubbo Blue or Dubbo Red.
The two Roos sides face-off in a blockbuster all-Dubbo preliminary final at Wellington this weekend, with the winner progressing to the decider at Forbes’ Grinsted Oval the week after.
Although the Blue side is the only team to have beaten his Lions all season, Connaughton actually said he’s got a feeling Roos’ Red outfit might win through based on their radical improvement in the back end of the season.
The last time those two sides met was only a few weeks ago in round 13, the Lions prevailing 26-15 at Pride Park. It was a stark contrast to the 40-7 win Orange City scored in round seven at Dubbo’s No.1 Oval.
We have to make sure we’re ready for the grand final, because that’s the one that really counts.Orange City co-coach George Connaughton
“The Red side in the younger of the two, but I think it might be them we end up playing,” Connaughton said.
“Dubbo Blue has given us a bit of trouble this year and they played well again last weekend, but the Red side just seems to be hitting their straps a bit.
“We don’t really mind who we play though, we’ll be confident either way and no matter who it is I’m sure it’ll be a really good game.”
Dubbo Blue coach Justin Smith echoed Connaughton’s sentiment on the Red outfit’s form too, saying his side’s got a tough task on its hands this weekend.
“We’re the only team to beat City but the other team to really push them was the Reds,” Smith said, also acknowledging how difficult it will be for either side to upset the Lions the week after.
“They are the form team at the moment … they’ve played all the top four sides in the past four weeks so that’s a perfect preparation.
“There’s some good talk around and we’re expecting a rather good crowd … as [there] should be, it’s not very often you get Red versus Blue in a preliminary final so there’s a lot of excitement.
“I looked back at the game notes (from last weekend’s major semi-final) and we dominated for 21 minutes of the 50.
“There was nine minutes at the start before City scored against the run of play then there was a 12-minute period in the second half where we scored a couple of tries.
“We dominated there, but when City dominate they’re at another level.”
Emus’ under-17 side remains Orange’s other premiership hope, after finishing the regular season third they produced a spirited performance to down Dubbo Red 26-12 in last Saturday’s minor semi-final, also at Apex Oval.
The greens face Mudgee in this weekend’s preliminary final, with the winner to take on undefeated minor premiers Narromine in the decider.
“We clapped them on on Saturday, hopefully they can get through as well and give us another Orange club there on grand final day,” Connaughton said.
In the under-13 competition, Dubbo Blue has booked its place in the decider while Mudgee Blue faces Cowra-Canowindra in Saturday’s preliminary final.
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