The entire NSW Country camp is thrilled to have another chance to play in Orange after last year’s National Rugby Championship (NRC) clash with Perth was washed out, but it’s fair to say one Eagle is a little bit more excited than the rest.
It’s no surprise really, when you consider hulking second-rower Ryan McCauley grew up here.
McCauley, who went to school at Calare Public and spent his early footballing years in the green and gold of Orange CYMS, is over the moon his side is returning to the colour city for this weekend’s must-win, final round clash against Brisbane City.
“It was disappointing it got washed out last year. I was really excited to play out in Orange and catch up with a few mates at the same time,” he said.
“But we’re lucky enough to get another chance to play out there. It’s a great place, it was a great place to grow up, all the memories I’ve got of Orange are good ones so I’m really looking forward to coming out there again.”
The 20-year-old, 203cm, 107kg lock and his Eagles land in Orange on Friday, hosting their final captain’s run at Endeavour Oval before facing Brisbane City at the same ground on Saturday.
The clash is the Eagles’ fourth in a regional centre in 2017, NSW Country has already turned out at Armidale, Goulburn and Tamworth this season and also played in Fiji.
“We’ve had some great crowds and great games at Tamworth and Armidale this year, both times we had a lot of juniors come out so hopefully we see plenty in Orange as well,” McCauley said.
The Eagles come into the final round in fourth, a spot they secured thanks to a resounding victory over Melbourne Rising last weekend.
After leading 14-12 at half-time the Eagles ran in five unanswered tries in the final 20 minutes to ultimately secure a 47-19, bonus point win and keep their finals hopes alive.
It was one of several stunning results which hugely impacted the finals frame, but it leaves NSW Country in a very simple situation.
“If we win, we’re in the finals,” McCauley said, Brisbane City is in the exact same situation which makes for a no-holds-barred contest at Endeavour Oval.
The two sides are locked on 18 competition points and could mathematically jump the Fijian Drua (21) into third if that side doesn’t earn any points this weekend.
But with sixth-placed Perth (16) still in the frame as well McCauley says his side’s only focus is winning, to ensure a top-four spot. He said there’s little doubt City is thinking the same way.
“It’s must-win, it’s a huge game, we know what we have to do,” he said.
“We just need to put our best foot forward and execute the way we know we can. If we can do that and we don’t get the result, then that’s the way it goes, but I’m pretty confident if we can do that then we should be able to get the result.
“Our set-piece has been really good this year, our maul in particular has been a real weapon for us.
“Being a second-rower the line-out, and set-piece, is obviously a massive focus for me. Making sure that’s working as best it can.”
Both the Eagles and City will be slightly understrength, a number of both sides being named for the Barbarians’ clash against the Wallabies on Saturday.
“It has been a bit of a disrupted week in that regard, there’s a few boys out with Barbarians duty but [Brisbane City] will be the same,” McCauley said.
Friday’s captain’s run and junior clinic starts from 4.30pm at Endeavour Oval, the Eagles face Brisbane City from 1pm on Saturday afternoon.
Gates open at Endeavour Oval at 9am on Saturday, before some more junior clinics and games from 10.30am.