Following last year's remarkable late-season run to the grand final, at Pride Park on Saturday afternoon the Orange City Lions will be gunning to begin a Blowes Clothing Cup season with a victory for the first time since 2017.
Despite losing a handful of stars from last year's grand final side, the Lions still look a real chance to do just that, with word filtering through the Central West that Dubbo Kangaroos will be drastically understrength this weekend.
Former Roos skipper Shaun McHugh isn't expected to feature much in the opening rounds after he and his wife welcomed their first child to the world recently, but the ex-Central West tall timber isn't the biggest omission.
Former NSW Country centre Filisione Pauta began the pre-season as both a player and coach, but it now appears he's departed Roos' camp to focus on rugby league, along with a host of rumoured off-season recruits.
Co-captain Tim Beach is unavailable this weekend as well while new prop Rob McNamara will also miss the round one road trip to Orange, leaving incoming coach Paul Hausia with a youthful outfit, to say the least.
Hamish Gordon will skipper the side while Sam Knaggs has impressed during the pre-season while Sam Gemmell, Sam Hunt, Hugh O'Leary and Pat Wheatley are also set to play plenty of top grade minutes in the opening weeks.
"They've got vision. We've got a game plan together but if they see something out there and want to take a risk I've said 'you make the decision' and it's up to the captains, too," Hausia said.
"I'm excited to watch the young blokes run around. After what I saw in two trials against quality teams I'm really looking forward to see what the young ones can display moving forward."
Despite Orange City's struggles in recent season the Lions have, often, had the wood over Roos and that was apparent in 2020. Two vital wins against the Dubbo side pushed Orange City to a local derby grand final against Emus, although the greens won comfortably.
With the likes of Rakai Tuheke, Eman Rodriguez and Steve Widders leaving the club after the decider appearance Lions coach Viv Paasi has some huge holes to fill.
But against an understrength Dubbo side in front of a perennially vocal Pride Park crowd, Saturday appears to be a massive chance for Orange City to start their season with a bang.
The last time the Lions won an opening round game was against Cowra four years ago, the Lions finished fifth that season before being bounced out of the finals in the opening week by Bathurst Bulldogs.
Saturday's round one clash kicks off at 3.15pm at Pride Park.
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