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 still has strong ties to Orange and the western region.
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.
"I've still got some family out in Dubbo, not far from Orange, so hopefully they can get over and have a look.
"It's nice to be able to get the chance to play out in these areas, in front of mates and potentially family."
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.
“We just need to put our best foot forward and execute the way we know we can,” he said.
Gates open at Orange’s Endeavour Oval at 9am on Saturday, before some more junior clinics and games from 10.30am.