Considering they're 11 points clear with one hand on the Blowes Clothing Cup second grade minor title, you could easily be forgiven for assuming Orange Emus have largely done it easy this season.
Looks can be deceiving though, Emus coach Al Hattersley said.
Although the greens have punched out 11 wins from the opening 12 games eight bonus points and boast a differential that's 101 points better than second-placed Dubbo, Hattersley said it's been "anything but easy".
"Those numbers look great but they don't tell the full story and I don't think there's anyone in our group that would say this year's been easy, far from it in fact," Hattersley said.
"We're definitely pleased with how we've been going and it's certainly nice to be in this position, but we've still got a long way to go and I don't think those numbers reflect how tough the season has been.
"We've not had an easy game all season, nor will we, I think you can look to the fact there's not been any real blowouts across the entire competition as proof of that."
Emus have won comfortably on a number of occasions but Hattersley said that's come not from any sense of outclassing their opposition, but more from the greens' defensive efforts and a handful of fast finishes.
"That's been a real highlight for us, our defence, and I think that's a big reason why some of our wins look pretty comfortable, but the guys have had to work really hard to do that," he said.
Hattersley gave his troops credit for their adaptability too, with injuries taking a larger toll at Endeavour Oval in 2021 than they have in previous years.
"There's guys moving back and forward between grades every week and I don't think we've had the same team two weeks in a row all year, which is probably the same for all the clubs - that's just reserve grade rugby, after all," he said.
"We've had a lot of guys playing out of position and doing the job too, but we still aren't quite where we want to be and we've got improvements to make."
The greens' surge back to the top of the second grade stakes comes after they were knocked out at the penultimate stage last year, missing out on a decider appearance for the first time since 2013.
Aligning with their top grade's golden run recently, Emus picked three second grade premierships between 2014 and 2019 and adding another to the trophy cabinet is the ultimate goal this year.
"Every side's goal is to win the premiership, but we're not thinking about that yet. We've got Dubbo after the bye and they knocked us off last time we played them, so that game is all we're focusing on at the moment," Hattersley said.
Emus will be forced to face the rest of the season without skipper Harry Edwards though after the centre-turned-flanker broke his leg in last Saturday's win over Forbes.
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