Orange Emus and success have gone hand-in-hand in recent years but coach Paul Ringland was particularly pleased to see his outfit claim the 2018 Blowes Clothing Cup minor premiership on Saturday.
The Emus scored a tough and bruising 28-17 win at No. 1 Oval, a result which ended the Dubbo Kangaroos’ season and sealed a third straight minor premiership for the men in green.
While the two titles in the past three seasons is the undoubted highlight of the Emus’ recent era of dominance, claiming this year’s minor premiership in a revamped, and incredibly competitive, Blowes Clothing Cup was a point of pride for Ringland.
The challenge now, after a few “so-so” performances in recent weeks, is to build off Saturday’s win in the major semi-final against Bathurst Bulldogs.
“It’s massive,” Ringland said of the minor premiership.
“And it’s something you probably don’t get to appreciate unless you win the big one, to be honest, because it’s a bit hollow if you win the minor and don’t go on to win it.
“But it’s a massive achievement and more so this year given the tough new structure.
“Being the first team to win it under this new structure is something we’re really proud of.”
Emus haven’t had it all their own way this season and while they’ve lost just three times this during the regular season, they were pushed all the way in a number of other games when they failed to reach the kind of clinical form which has been synonymous with the side in recent times.
With fellow finalists Bulldogs and Cowra Eagles in blistering form and the Forbes Platypi knowing just what’s needed at this time of year, Ringland knows his side has still got to be better.
“Just a bit more of an 80 minute performance,” he said on Saturday in terms of what he wants.
“There were periods there were Dubbo was all over us and you can’t do that against good teams in the finals.”
Ringland his coaching staff will be thankful to have a general bye this weekend after a number of his players succumbed to injury at Dubbo.
Lachie Harris, Matt Findlay, Tom Green and Jayden Norris all exited the match in the second half of the win while key flyhalf Kyran Bubb was in noticeable pain with a shoulder injury at full-time.
The coach was hopeful none were serious enough to warrant any missed game time, and he’s all too aware he’ll need his top side fit and firing to be any chance to make up for last season’s grand final defeat.