Last year, NSW Country made a simple, heartfelt pledge directly after inclement weather and the condition of Endeavour Oval forced its National Rugby Championship (NRC) fixture to be moved back to Sydney.
The Eagles promised they would return to Orange.
That return has been officially confirmed for October this year, Eagles general manager and forwards coach Andrew Blades was on hand to make the announcement on Friday morning.
The former Wallabies prop and coach took plenty of joy in confirming his side’s return to the colour city, the Eagles will take on Brisbane City in the final round of this year’s NRC – expected to be October 28.
“Hopefully it’ll be nice and sunny this time, not the torrential rain we had last year,” Blades laughed.
“We had promised a game to Mudgee on the back of the NSW Waratahs game this year, but we desperately wanted to come back to Orange after the amount of work Orange City Council and Orange Emus had put in before last year’s game.
“Mudgee was happy to allow us to fulfill that commitment to Orange, hopefully we can go there next year.”
The move continues the Eagles’ commitment to regional rugby, something many suggest the elite level has lacked in recent years.
We desperately wanted to come back to Orange.NSW Country's Andrew Blades
“It’s another chance for us to give back,” Blades said.
“We’re trying to build a base where we can put some real resources into regional areas, juniors especially. We’re hoping to announce a major support foundation around financing NSW Country juniors in the next few months too.”
Blades said the Eagles are hopeful of landing in the colour city on the Friday, before hosting some coaching clinics for the region’s juniors before the game.
“Nothing is confirmed just yet, but that is the plan,” he said.
“We want to run some clinics for the juniors and also around our captain run, speak to the coaches around the place and get them involved as well.”
Blades said he’s also hopeful of having the entire Eagles squad on deck, including the likes of Coonamble’s Ned Hanigan, now a Wallaby.
“Ned and the guys that did well in the NRC last year, we’re hopeful to get them back and while it’s great they’re playing for the Wallabies now we’d love to have them play in Orange,” Blades said.
If last year’s NRC campaign is anything to go by, at that stage of the 2017 season Orange could well be watching a potential title-winning side.
The Eagles won last year’s minor premiership, before going down in the decider to the Perth Spirit.
“Hopefully we will be going that well again,” Blades smiled.
The former Wallabies prop was in Orange on Thursday night as well, he put Orange Emus through their paces before Saturday’s top-of-the-table Blowes Clothing Cup clash against Forbes.
“I had to come down for the announcement so I spoke to Steve (Fergus, Emus’ president) and said if the boys would have me, I’d love to give them a bit of help,” he said.
“The guys here are obviously doing very well this year, so hopefully they can continue that form as well.”
Last year’s clash between the Eagles and Perth was scheduled for late September, but the weather and condition of Endeavour Oval following the Blowes Clothing Cup grand final forced an 11th hour shift.