Some Eels players have been there before, but never the whole squad, as Eels five-eighth Daniel Mortimer has taken the entire Eels squad to his home-town of Orange, as they continue to bond and gel together for the 2011 season.

After they were labelled by the bookmakers as one of the top sides in the NRL, their form over the course of the year didn’t end up warranting the bookmakers odds, and they missed the top 8, with former coach Daniel Anderson fired.

New coach Steven Kearney has wasted no time in getting the fitness of the players up, taking them on an army-style boot camp, and now a night in the country is the next step, as the Eels look for improvement from 2010.

The Eels did have plans to take a trial game to Orange, but recent renovations to the stadium have prevented that trial from eventuating.

An open training session was held yesterday for the local community to see the Eels players in action, which was followed up by an autograph session and a touch football match against touch football members and local players.

Yesterday night, Mortimer took the entire squad to his father’s world-renowned vineyard, as the players relaxed and a quiet drink with the rest of the Mortimer family.

I feel very honoured to bring the boys back to show them my home town and also treat the Orange people to something special that most other towns wouldn’t get the chance to see. I feel very privileged at the moment,” he said.

“We came down for a training session and a game of touch … so the town was pumped for that. Then back to my old man’s winery for a bonfire.”

Mortimer had a Christmas that would have been quite different to that of his team-mates, doing a bit more training then they would have.

With Daniel’s brother Tim playing in the South of France, both he and his family were shown the sights in France, as Mortimer also attended a training session with the local French side.

Mortimer is also shocked to see the devastation of the QLD floods, as he is a proud country boy.

“It’s just horrific,” he said.

“To see all these country towns that were struggling without rain and now they’ve been punished with it is devastating.”

By ricky

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