Willie Heta always knew his Orange Hawks side was capable of a run at the Group 10 premier league crown but a late-season dip that resulted in a couple of losses, and a missed shot at the minor premiership, dented the confidence of his players.
That deflated ethos threatened to cripple the club’s 2018, too.
Until last week.
Heta’s Hawkies stunned many within Group 10 by knocking off defending premiers CYMS 22-12 in freezing conditions at Wade Park last weekend, booking the two blues a date with eventual minor premiers Cowra in the major semi-final.
“There was probably a little bit of relief from the boys, more than anything. We knew we had to win that one to get some confidence,” Heta said looking back at his side’s week one finals victory.
“The last round game, the win over Mudgee, we’ve been building and hopefully we can get the job done this week.
“The confidence is there. We’re coming in off a good win but you never know with finals footy. It should be a cracker of a day.”
Hawks hasn’t played in a Group 10 grand final since 2013, losing to CYMS. The club hasn’t won a premier league crown since 2003.
Cowra’s history is fairly similar.
The Magpies last played in a Group 10 top grade decider in 2014, losing to St Pat’s. The club hasn’t won a premier league crown since 1995.
Both clubs have plenty to play for heading into Sunday’s grand final qualifier and Heta believes if Hawks can limit the Magpies’ opportunities with the ball then the two blues can book a home decider.
“They throw it around a bit more than us, so possession in our hands is key,” he said, Hawks having won both games against Cowra this season, 28-18 in the first round and then 36-14 at Orange in the second round.
“They’re strong across the board, good back-rowers and Warren Williams is going well. We’ll have our hands full.”
Brodie Christopherson returns after being forced to sit out last week’s win with concussion. Liam Brodrick drops back to Hawks’ first division side.
Kick-off is scheduled for 2.15pm at Sid Kallas Oval.