THE Orange Toyota Thunder players will value their 19th-consecutive Central West State League netball crown a little more after being made to work for the title on Sunday.
Orange took on Dubbo in the division one final at the Orange PCYC, with the hosts having to come from behind to record a thrilling 56-47 victory.
Orange has been a dominant force for years and have cruised to some of their previous titles.
That was not the case in 2014.
Orange assistant coach Amanda Hurford said it was great to be tested.
“It’s a fantastic thing for us. It’s a fantastic thing for the region as well,” Hurford said.
“It’s been a close State League this year, even with the division two and 17s as well. The growth of netball is going well.”
The assistant coach was almost shocked when she was reminded Orange had claimed a 19th-straight regional title.
“It’s a big achievement for Orange,” she beamed.
“Dubbo, all credit to them, they have worked very hard and there’s been a big improvement in the last 12 months from their association. A big congratulations to them.
“We worked very hard to get our 19th win. I think we appreciate it a little bit more now.”
In the major semi-final Orange Thunder downed Dubbo 54-37, while Bathurst edged out Orange (2) 40-37 in the minor.
In the preliminary final Dubbo booked a grand final date with Orange by accounting for Bathurst 50-41.
The grand final didn’t disappoint.
Dubbo had the better start and were up 16-13 at the first break after goal shooter Megan Liplyn nailed all 13 of her shots.
The Orange players kept their cool in the second quarter as they clawed their way back for a 27-26 lead at half-time.
Orange continued to apply pressure in the third period by scoring the first four goals and going into the final break with a 40-36 margin.
Some outstanding defence from both ends made goals hard to come by but Orange was able to extend their lead and claim another central west crown.
The centre-court tussle between Orange’s Tegan Dray and Dubbo’s Grace Pilon was exciting to watch as they wrestled to give their sides the upper hand.
Young Dubbo shooters Liplyn and Abbie Merritt were outstanding under some immense pressure.
At the other end, Orange shooters Sinead Davis and Erin Johnstone made an outstanding combination.
Dubbo captain-coach Michelle Williams was understandably happy with her side’s performance.
“Amazing,” Williams said of her team’s efforts.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better game. They were just a better team today which is a credit to them.
“I couldn’t have asked for more from the girls today. They played three whole hours of netball today and some of us played all three games, so I couldn’t have asked for much more. We’ve worked really hard on our fitness and I think that showed today.”
Williams said you can expect Dubbo to threaten again in 2015.
“I think we’ll come back bigger and better,” she smiled.
The representative commitments aren’t over for the Orange Thunder as they have qualified for the GrainCorp Inter-Region State League on September 27 and 18.
Orange will be trying to defend their title after they won the inaugural event in 2013.