Orange Hawks' Group 10 premier league title bid has received another welcome boost through some shrewd recruiting from the club's powers that be, with two new exciting arrivals landing in Orange this week after signing for the 2020 season.
In fact exciting might be somewhat of an understatement considering John Taulaga's a product of North Sydney and Canterbury's systems and Marcel Ikinofo is one of Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta's former NSW Country Firsts teammates.
Ikinofo, who's spent the last several years in Newcastle, was also in the New Zealand Warriors' under-20 squad in his younger years, while Tualaga lands at Hawks after a handful of seasons in the 15-man code in Cairns, he played for Gordon's colts in the NSW Premier Rugby competition before that.
The 25-year-old is set to fill one of Hawks' most crucial positions too, halfback.
"Well, I think that's what Willie has in mind, I've been playing inside centre and [five-eighth] in Cairns for the Barran Trinity Bulls," Taulaga said, his side were Far North Queensland Rugby's beaten grand finalists in 2019.
"The last time I played a more-serious level of league would be back in under 16s I guess with North Sydney in the Harold Matthews Cup but I spent a bit of time in the Bulldogs' development squads as well.
"I'm looking forward to getting back into league and hopefully I can bring some of that IQ from my experiences in rugby to the Hawks side, hopefully it all works out and I fit in well."
Ikinofo also played against Heta when the latter was pulling the strings at Souths in Newcastle so there was more than once connection and he said the transition to Orange has been seamless.
WATCH: A highlights reel from John Tualaga's time in the 15-man code, from 2015
"I knew Willie before coming here ... I spent a good seven years or so in Newcastle but it's been a pretty smooth transition, my wife and I have some good friends down this way anyway and there's some good opportunities for growth for us," the 26-year-old centre said.
Ikinofo doesn't have a specialist side on the three-quarter-line and the prospect of the two former Country stars linking on the right, a side which also featured Rakai Tuheke in 2019, looks to have mouth-watering potential.
Both said how keen they are to 'rip in' as Hawks look to shrug off two consecutive preliminary final defeats and take at least one step further, ideally two, in 2020.
Tualaga also mentioned he's had a handful of the Hawks old boys provide some insight into the club and, most importantly, the fierce rivalry with CYMS.
"The old boys have taught me a bit about the history of the club and the rivalries already, especially with the two clubs here, that seems pretty full on to be honest but I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"I watched a game of their's last year against Lithgow, they looked a pretty nifty side then with plenty of talent across the park so hopefully with a pre-season behind me I can earn a spot in the team," Ikinofo added.
"I'm just really looking forward to ripping in and playing for the boys."
The two signings land after the Group 10 draw was released earlier this week, with Hawks to host Cowra in round one of the 2020 season on April 12.
They'll face Mudgee in a rematch of last year's preliminary final in round two and then take on Blayney and Bathurst St Pat's before the first local derby of the season in round five, on May 24.
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