Orange City went within a whisker of causing a Blowes Clothing Cup upset in 2020.
The Lions stunned the Central West when they qualified for the top grade grand final at Wade Park and, although Viv Paasi's boys eventually went down to a formidable Emus side, after a couple of lean seasons City's resurgence has primed the club for its next tilt at a premiership.
That work will continue early next month when the Orange City Rugby Union academy will begin a five-week program to help the next crop of Lions progress into the club's senior ranks.
The club's maiden program in 2019 proved a massive hit, with the likes of Logan Buckley, Tom Francis, Aden Fraser and Noa Fraser all debuting in City's first grade side last season after participating in the academy.
Academy coach Andy Hillan, who again will be joined by first grade head coach Viv Paasi, renowned Lions' junior mentor George Connaughton, club stalwart Ben Watson and former Lion and Wallaby Jimmy Grant in guiding City's young-guns, says the program has already been instrumental in helping the club return to the top rungs of the Central West on the field.
But, even more importantly, Hillan believes the program is developing the club's next generation as people as well.
"In the years to come we hope a gym component, an on-field skills component and then that community aspect will all become vital parts of the academy. It's about developing the person rather than the rugby player," he said.
It's about developing the person rather than the rugby player.Academy coach Andy Hillan
The academy will meet every Monday for five weeks from November 2.
The club's goal is to have a special guest coach at each session, and so far the 'scrum doctor', former Waratah Sam Needs has been locked in as one of those guest mentors.
Hillan said the club has capped this year's academy at 30 players, and will reach that number after initial registrations reach 27 - that group a mix of colts and junior players already in the Lions' ranks.
The long-time Orange City coach says the academy was formed as a means of helping the club's best youngsters - the Lions' are perennial contenders in the junior grades - make a smooth transition into grade footy.
"We saw a need, there was a gap between the juniors and seniors; that going from 16s to colts, and then colts into grade," Hillan said.
"This just helps to upskill them and get them to understand what level they need to be at to play first grade."
Hillan said seeing the likes of Francis, Buckley and the Fraser twins debut in first grade throughout the COVID-interrupted 2020 season was a positive for the academy.
He said the success of the colts side in 2020 - they under 18s boys also made a grand final - and the stunning rise of the Orange City top grade will have a knock-on effect throughout the club.
Simply, Hillan says the Lions are set to roar in 2021, across all grades.
"Absolutely, you can see the standard those guys now play at has picked up when you watch the colts boys" he added.
The first OCRU academy session is from 5.30pm at Pride Park on November 2.
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