‘We need to make it happen’: Emus gunning to win third straight title in anniversary season

DREAMS OF THREE: Greens skipper Nigel Staniforth is one of eight Emus gunning for a third straight grand final victory. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

DREAMS OF THREE: Greens skipper Nigel Staniforth is one of eight Emus gunning for a third straight grand final victory. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Etching their names into the record books, doing so in the club’s 70th anniversary season.

That’s Orange Emus’ goal in this weekend’s Blowes Clothing Cup decider as they gun to win a third straight premiership, which would be just the fifth time that’s happened in the competition’s history.

Emus already account for two of those runs, from 1971-73 and then 1999-2002. Orange City (1988-1993) and Dubbo Kangaroos (2006-08) are the other two to have achieved the feat.

Of course that’s easier said than done, particularly when the greens are facing the only side to have genuinely troubled them in 2017, the Forbes Platypi.

It’s a rematch of last year’s big dance which was decided by a Nigel Staniforth penalty goal in the dying stages, that’s also the way Emus defeated the Platypi in round 11 this year and the major semi-final a fortnight ago.

It’s fair to say the rivalry’s strong, with Forbes searching for its first title since 2003. The Platypi beat Bathurst Bulldogs that day, in an emotional victory that came after losing several players in the Bali bombings.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend,” Staniforth, Emus’ skipper, said.

“We had a tough training session on the Saturday of our weekend off, we ran out some energy [on Tuesday night] and got some ball in hand, so I think we’re ready.

“We know how Forbes play and they probably know how we play, so we just need to be better. We spoke about it after the (20-17) win in the major semi-final, we probably focused on Forbes a little too much going into that game.

“So we’re just focusing on ourselves, playing to our strengths and enjoying the day. We didn’t hit our rucks last time around, that was a bit of a killer for us.

“We’ve been lucky enough to be in this spot a few times, but you still need to make it happen because grand finals can be funny days.”

Along with Staniforth there’s seven other Emus who will start in the greens’ grand final XV for the third straight year – Tom Goolagong, Nick Hughes-Clapp, Nas Havealeta, Tom Green, Carter Hirini and Sam and Scott McLean.

“It’s already been a great year for the club, but if we could win a third straight title and also have our second grade get up it’d be absolutely amazing. It’d be the icing on the anniversary cake, so to speak,” Goolagong said.

“Honestly, for me it’d be a dream come true. I grew up watching Emus in the glory years and I remember idolising those guys. To have a run similar to that would be something I’d cherish forever.

We’ve been lucky enough to be in this spot a few times, but you still need to make it happen. - Emus skipper Nigel Staniforth

“I’d love to eventually be one of those drunk old blokes on the hill bragging about the glory days, three in a row would be good for that.”

It’s some effort from the club to have retained such a big core of players, something Goolagong puts down to a number of things.

“We’re lucky to have had so much depth, competition for spots makes everyone better,” he said.

“Success comes from that and everyone wants to be in a successful club. It’s great coaching too, Paul (Ringland) and Jeremy (Wallace) are two of the best, we’ve grown every year as a side.”

Goolagong also heaped praise on his skipper, who came to the club in 2012. He’s led the club from claiming the wooden spoon in 2013 to a fourth straight grand final appearance this season.

“Nigel has been so influential, seriously, his role in Emus’ turnaround can’t be underestimated,” Goolagong said.

“His leadership and professionalism is second to none, he’s the best captain I’ve ever played under and he’s made a huge difference.”

The greens did suffer a big blow in the major semi-final, rampaging No.8 Rob Thorburn broke his thumb and has had surgery since, obviously being ruled out of the decider.

Harry Hamilton comes onto the side of the scrum, with Scott McLean moving to the back of it as a result.

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