Orange Emus coach Paul Ringland, call him Bill Murray, because for his side it’s Groundhog Day.
Although Punxsutawney Phil’s nowhere to be seen, there a distinct sense of deja vu surrounding Emus’ trip to Dubbo on Saturday to take on the in-form Kangaroos.
When the greens made this trip in round 10 last season they were undefeated on top of the table, more than 10 points adrift of second and were coming off a bye.
Before that game Ringland was forced into a dramatic reshuffle thanks to injury and unavailability, calling on his club’s depth to fill the void.
Leading into Saturday’s round 17 trip Emus are undefeated on top of the table, more than 10 points adrift of second and may as well be coming off a week off, considering the ease with which they took care of Parkes last week.
Before this game Ringland has been forced into a dramatic reshuffle thanks to injury and unavailability, calling on his club’s depth to fill the void.
History shows Emus lost last year’s corresponding game, the side’s first defeat of the 2016 season, in a clash where hooker Tom Goolagong was shown a red card and Ringland himself was also banished from the sideline.
Obviously, the greens’ mentor is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.
“Yeah, we definitely don’t want that to happen again,” Ringland laughed.
“I think we’re the two form teams at the moment, maybe even more so Roos, they seem like they’re really hitting their straps at the right time.
“It is a bit difficult for us because didn’t see the best of them last time, so we’re not entirely sure what to expect.
“We’ve got that minor premiership and a week off wrapped up so in terms of competition points it doesn’t matter for us, but we certainly don’t want to lose momentum or give one of our fiercest rivals a sniff so we’ll be doing everything we possibly can to win.”
Emus are still without prop Al Hattersley, while Carter Hirini, AJ Sykes and Harry Hamilton are out too. Sam Green and Jack Marchinton are likely to miss the rest of the season through injury as well.
With that in mind Ringland’s certain the rampant Dubbo side – which hasn’t lost since, coincidentally, Emus handed it a 38-15 defeat in round eight – smells blood in the water.
“I think they will, I’d imagine they’re looking at this as a real chance to beat us. They deserve to as well, I think, considering their form,” Ringland said.
“Typical of Roos they’ve got no real weaknesses, Billy Sing has scored a mountain of tries and apparently Sione Lolohea is a handful, so through the centres there’s real danger.
“They’ve got solid forwards everywhere too, so we’re looking forward to a really tough game. We’ve been blessed with a hard run into the finals, now that we’ve wrapped up first we can throw ourselves into these games to prepare for the finals.”
Roos coach Dean Matthews said his side has had this game in the back of its mind for some time, but “isn’t under any illusions”.
“Emus have hardly lost for about a year-and-half so they’ll be coming here full of confidence,” Matthews, who will field his strongest side of the season this weekend, said.
“Everyone’s chasing that second spot and we’ve just got to keep winning”
Kick off at No.1 Oval is at 3.15pm.
- ORANGE EMUS: 1 Nas Havealeta, 2 Tom Goolagong, 3 Michael Graham, 4 Nick Hughes-Clapp, 5 Sam McLean, 6 Scott McLean, 7 Andrew Selwood, 8 Rob Thorburn, 9 TJ Cunynghame, 10 Mitch Evers, 11 Tom Green, 12 Lachie Harris, 13 Levi Russell, 14 James Simmons, 15 Nigel Staniforth ©