A last-gasp try from Bathurst Bulldogs gun Felix Quinn sunk Orange City in the Blowes Clothing Cup major semi-final a fortnight ago and it’s the burn, the pain, the disappointment of that loss that’s driving the Lions in Saturday’s grand final rematch at Endeavour Oval.
The Lions won through to the decider with a 27-26 win over Dubbo Kangaroos last weekend, a victory that Orange City coach Jake Johnston says has his troops in the perfect position to flip the script on Bulldogs and stop the Bathurst side winning a third straight colts title.
“The (major semi-final) loss to Bulldogs left a sour taste in the boys’ mouth, there wasn’t much said in the sheds afterwards because they know how much better they can be,” Johnston fired.
“The fact we did only lose by a couple of points gives us confidence … and a win would mean everything to them, these guys love Orange City and it’s their first crack at a senior premiership, they’re up for it.
“After last Saturday’s win I think it sunk in that they’ve made a grand final and they are very, very excited. I’m absolutely thrilled for them to have made it this far.”
Johnston confirmed the side should be buoyed by the return of NSW Schoolboys gun Hunter Ward and elusive fullback Yool Yool.
Both missed last week’s win while the latter didn’t play in the major semi-final either.
“They’ve both trained this week, and they’ve been named too,” Johnston said.
He said the addition of the St Stanislaus College pair along with a fairly simplistic game-plan puts the Lions in good stead.
“It’s about possession, simple as that,” Johnston said.
“You can’t win a game, let alone a grand final, with less than 50 per cent of the ball.
“So this weekend we’ll be looking to hold on to it for extended periods, build some phase play and work from the back of that.”
He said Orange City also has experience on its side.
While a number of the Bulldogs side were a part of last year’s premiership win and a couple have tasted first grade, the Lions have more than half a dozen players who lined up in the top grade regularly in 2017.
They helped that side to the finals too.
Since coming back to the under 20s age group, they’ve taken the orange and green hoops to another level.
“Without a doubt that experience has helped,” Johnston said.
“I sometimes forget how young these guys are, just because of the way they carry themselves off the field and they tend to replicate that on it as well.
“Playing a substantial hunk of first grade has played a big role in that.”
Saturday’s colts grand final kicks off at 10.30am.
- ORANGE CITY LIONS: 1 Aaron Kilkeary, 2 Nick Fisher, 3 Darcy Holmes, 4 Ethan Bereyne, 5 Mitch Winslade, 6 Hunter Ward, 7 Liam Hanley, 8 AJ McNiven, 9 Tom West, 10 Nick Smith, 11 Will Cranney, 12 Luke Stundon, 13 Lachie Lingley, 14 Hamish Cranney, 15 Yool Yool; Bench: 16 Cam Baker, 17 Ricky Eggins, 18 Jack Nagle, 19 Hamish Ellis-Peck, 20 Treii Saukuru, 21 Cam Thomas, 22 Friedie Williams, 23 Josh Gibbs, 24 Kyle Smith, 25 Tim Dalton, 26 Pat Conners, 27 Lachie Wells
- BATHURST BULLDOGS: 1 Jesse Gauci, 2 Joe Summersby, 3 Josh Carter, 4 Fletcher Begley, 5 Jason Corliss, 6 Hamish Davies, 7 Felix Quinn, 8 Dylan Carter, 9 Cameron Redpath, 10 Jim Davis, 11 Campbell Morris, 12 Marshall Fox, 13 Matt Brouff, 14 Mitch Collins, 15 Isiah Ackroyd; Bench: 16 Joel Thomas, 17 Hamish McKay, 18 Lachlan Kemp, 19 Patrick Bower, 20 Jake Ingwerson, 21 Harry Peacock, 22, Matt Browning, 23 Lachlan Melville, 24 Charlie Hinge, 25 Zane Rowlandson, 26 Joe Lemmich