THEY’VE been the best netball side in the central west for the last 18 years, and now the Orange Netball Association’s open outfit has cemented its place in the upper echelon of NSW netball after claiming the 2014 State Championship’s open title.
In a gruelling three-day campaign usually dominated by metropolitan teams, Orange won 20 of its 22 games played at Campbelltown to finish on top of the overall standings three points ahead of their nearest rival Gosford.
Ironically, both games Orange dropped were against Gosford.
But the coastal association stumbled where Orange soared, dropping three games while snaring a draw to finish in second place on 37 points, comfortably ahead of Illawarra (29), Charlestown (29) and Baulkham Hills (27).
As the top ranked country association, Orange also defended its 2013 Pat Weston OAM Country Champions Cup claimed via the side’s third place finish in the open championship last season.
For a side at the top of its game for nigh on two decades, Monday’s win tops the lot.
“There’s a lot of sore bodies, but looking around here at the girls, they’re all so proud of their efforts, none of them can stop smiling ... they’re on a high. We’re pretty excited,” coach Petrina Allen said.
“We really had to dig deep. It was great netball; good hard netball and it was really great to see the way the girls played.”
Dropping game one against Gosford 22-20, Orange then went on a 20-game winning streak across Saturday, Sunday and yesterday to catapult the side to top of the table.
Monday's’s results were the most crucial, with a fast finishing Gosford hot on Orange’s tail.
But wins over Maitland (24-14), Wyong (19-15), Penrith (31-15), Maitland (23-19), Charlestown (19-15), Baulkham Hills (28-20) and then Camden and District (25-17) effectively sealed Orange’s place atop the standings.
Orange dropped its last game, against Gosford by two goals 26-24, but the result was in the bag well and truly by then.
“We were hoping for a top two spot but (on Sunday) we knew we were a really good chance of finishing as number one, and then after the Charlestown game we knew we’d won it,” Allen said.
“It’s put Orange on the map.”
Allen praised the group as a whole, with “10 strong players” guiding the Orange open outfit to top billing in NSW for 2014.