WESTOIL’S Mardi Aplin is no stranger to tough netball.
The sharp shooter has been a pivotal cog in Orange’s run of 16-straight Central West State League titles.
But tonight Aplin’s game must go to a whole new level.
Aplin will play wing attack for Baulkham Hills in the Waratah Cup - the NSW State League division one competition - semi-finals against the undefeated Eastwood-Ryde from 8.30pm.
The Westoil star was drafted into the Baulkham Hills squad at the beginning of June, largely to cover for the absence of Australian Institute of Sport scholarship holders and shooters Kristina Brice and Alix McDermott
But with Brice, all 196 centimetres of her, and McDermott back in the side’s attacking end for the business end of the year, Aplin will now have the pleasure of feeding the ball to some of the best young shooters in NSW from the team’s mid-court.
Aplin said she was enjoying the experience of playing in the Waratah Cup - the same competition the Sydney Swifts draw its players from - and expected Eastwood-Ryde to be one of the toughest challenges of her decorated career.
“The coach has already said what she expects of us and what she is expecting from them,” Aplin said.
“It’s going to be a whole new level and we’re really going to have step up.”
The first game Baulkham Hills played against Eastwood-Ryde was back in round four of the 2012 competition and then Aplin wasn’t yet part of the side that went down 48-37.
The second time the two met was Aplin’s first game for Baulkham Hills.
And while the side still suffered defeat in the form of a 48-39 loss in round 13, Aplin said there was plenty the squad can take into tonight’s crunch semi-final.
The winner will be the first side to book a berth in the Waratah Cup grand final.
“(In the second game) at that stage of the competition we didn’t have all of our AIS girls and Australian juniors playing and we only went down by nine. I’d like to think this time around we can go that step better,” Aplin enthused.
“Across the board there is a lot of talent in this competition.
“I love it. I’m really enjoying it and I’m learning different aspects of the game which is great.
“I haven’t played in Sydney since I was much younger. The coach rung me up and asked me to fill in while the AIS girls were away and I’ve largely played shooter. It’s just a fantastic experience.”
The loser of tonight’s semi-final will take on the winner of the Sutherland Shire and Hunter United semi next week.
The Waratah Cup grand final is on Wednesday, August 15.
Orange young-gun Charlotte Jasprizza is also taking on some of the best Sydney netballers, playing for St George in the State League division two competition.
Jasprizza and the winless St George took on the Central Coast last night.
After last night’s game, St George has four rounds remaining in the 2012 competition.