A push to field senior rugby league sides was little more than 'a pipe dream' for Orange United Sports Club initially but with foundations in place and its New Era Cup application accepted for 2020, that aspiration is now a reality.
While it's still early days Jason French - the club's overarching president - couldn't be more excited, particularly considering a huge name is already locked in to lead their charge.
French confirmed three-time Group 10 premiership-winner Kurt Beahan, who won two top-flight titles with CYMS and one with Mudgee, has agreed to terms to steer Orange United in 2020, which also marks Blackheath and Kandos' return to the competition.
"Kurt has agreed to terms and he's excited to be involved in a new club, we're excited to have him too and it's very real now, it was just a pipe dream for a few years," French said.
Kurt has agreed to terms and he's excited to be involved in a new club, we're excited to have him too.Orange United Sports Club president Jason French
A predominantly Indigenous club but not exclusively, Orange United's foundation was built through rugby league and they competed, initially as the All Blacks, and continue to in various knockouts around the state.
"Quite a few of the players we've had represent us have asked why we don't field a team, or teams, week-to-week in the past. Obviously we needed a lot of infrastructure in place for that to happen, but we're excited to be in a position to do so in 2020," French said.
"We've been here as a club for the last five years competing in a number of sports like netball, basketball and touch football and there has always been a desire to move further into rugby league, and league tag as well.
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"Our player base is made up largely of Indigenous athletes but as a club we're all about participation and inclusiveness and we'll always welcome anyone interested in playing.
"We target kids and players who might not be involved in sport outside of school, and this is also another avenue to help promote development for officials, volunteers and coaches too."
United were accepted to the competition about a fortnight ago and that was reaffirmed at the competition's recent annual general meeting, which also confirmed the eight-team structure for 2020.
Oberon comes into the competition after being forced to withdraw from Group 10, the four clubs will join Orange Barbarians, Lithgow Bears, Portland and reigning premiers CSU Bathurst to double the size of this year's competition.
'Here we are talking about footy in the bush dying, but we've got a great story here in the New Era Cup going from four teams to eight in 12 months, it's exciting," French said.
Lithgow Shamrocks' application was denied by Group 10 a fortnight ago, although they have offered some resolutions to concerns regarding pressures on the area's player pool, referee stocks and venue availability in a continued bid for acceptance.
The pressure United's inclusion might put on the Orange region's player stocks, with CYMS, Hawks and Barbarians already established, was a valid concern for both Group 10 and the New Era Cup executives too, French explained.
"It was a concern how a fourth club in Orange might impact the player pool here, of course, but we were asked to provide player lists as part of our application and the executives were happy with them," French said.
"We'll be drawing on a lot of the junior players that have represented us in the past while some players will come from other clubs after representing us at knockouts as well, but it's not so much a matter of recruiting those players as it them wanting to play for us week-to-week.
"A lot of the players we've identified are actually playing outside the Group 10 region as well, in the New Era Cup or the Woodbridge Cup and even a couple in Group 11 but they want the chance to represent their area, so that takes some of that pressure off.
"We also made sure to sit down with Orange Barbarians during the application process and I'm pleased to say they couldn't be more supportive of another club here, which is really great."
While the rumour mill has been abuzz with players potentially linking with the new club French preferred not to name nor confirm any at this stage, however he does expect to announce several signings along with the club's league tag coach before Christmas.
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