Nines the perfect start for Hawks: Heta

FIRST FORAY: Willie Heta makes his first appearance in a Hawks’ jersey at this weekend’s Mudgee Nines. Photo: NEWCASTLE HERALDOrange Hawks captain-coach Willie Heta is flying blind into this weekend’s Mudgee Nines, where his side faces the hosts first up, but he says that’s not all bad.

It lets the incumbent Country Firsts five-eighth keep his expectations realistic and enter the now-annual tournament, which he said is very much process-focused, without pre-conceived notions about his two blues or the opposition.

“I’m still getting to know everyone in my side, let alone knowing anything about the other teams,” Heta laughed.

“All I know about Mudgee is that they won the Nines last year and then they won the [Group 10 premier league] as well, so they must be a good side. But I don’t know if they’ll have the same side, or who will play in this competition so who knows.

“We’ll just head over and see what happens there I guess.”

Heta admitted he won’t be taking his full strength squad to the Nines, preferring to reward the regulars at pre-season training with first crack in the two blue jersey, including a potential replacement for halfback Brodie Christopherson in Joey Dunlop, who joined the club from CSU Bathurst.

“We’re leaving a few boys behind, it’s a good chance for the guys who have been training a lot to have a run,” Heta explained.

“We will have a couple of the boys from New Zealand coming along with us, they could use the match fitness.”

Heta’s arrival and now his first showing for the Hawks has everyone around Group 10 talking, so the two most prudent questions leading into the Nines are simple ones.

Firstly, will Hawks do well and secondly, can they win the whole thing?

“Mate, if we could win it that would be absolutely amazing,” Heta said.

“The expectations certainly aren’t that high just yet though,it’s very much process-focused. It’ll be good just to get the boys out there with a bit of space on the field and get that extra bit of fitness.”

Hawks’ first round game against Mudgee kicks off at 12.55pm on Saturday at Glen Willow. The two blues face Newcastle’s Macquarie Scorpions (2.35pm) and Group 11’s Dubbo Westside (3.50pm) that day too, before The Entrance Tigers (10.20am) on Sunday.

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