Orange has finished the 2017 HeartKids Cup in third, having narrowly lost to eventual finalists North Shore and Manly throughout the tournament’s group stage.
The promising turnout from Mardi Aplin’s young side points towards another strong calendar year from the Orange Netball Association open representative outfit, with Sunday morning’s win over Sydney Premier League outfit GWS particularly impressive.
North Shore finished the two-day carnival on top, edging an Annie Miller-inspired Manly Sapphires under 20s side in the deciding game at Orange PCYC on Sunday.
The HeartKids Cup organiser, Aplin was thrilled with both the participation and willingness from the teams that took part in the event – which endured heatwave temperatures throughout Saturday’s opening day’s play.
“Look, I questioned myself big time during the week; should I go ahead with it or should I call it off,” Aplin said.
“But in the end there wasn’t another weekend it could be run and the teams that came were brilliant.
“It really came together and I’m so thankful for everyone’s help.”
On the court, Aplin’s outfit was far from outclassed by its predominantly Sydney-based opposition.
The Thunder girls stuck it to both finalists, eventually losing both games, but drawing praise from Aplin thanks to the hosts’ competitiveness in arduous conditions on home courts.
In the Thunder’s clash with Manly on Sunday morning, the visitors led from virtually start to finish, but they couldn’t shake the young Orange outfit, not completely.
Interval margins of 9-8 at the first change, then 20-18 at the half ensured the young Manly outfit – starring former Orange gun Miller – was kept on its toes.
A dominant third term all but sealed the result, however, the Sapphires netting the penultimate term’s first six goals to rocket to an eight-goal lead mid-way through the period.
Orange fought back, but a 33-22 scoreline heading into the fourth seemed like an insurmountable task.
It proved that way, although Tegan Dray led her side gallantly to the first four goals of the final term before the scoring finished at 37-34 in favour of the Manly outfit.
“It was very entertaining,” Aplin said of her side’s Manly clash, highlighting the duels between Miller and Brisbane sisters Em and Lucy.
“She’s wonderful, Annie, and she’s going to do well wherever she’s playing,” Aplin added.
An event backed by the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service, Bathurst took out division two of the Cup and donated the prizemoney back to HeartKids.
The second Orange outfit ran third, narrowly, after a countback with Baulkham Hills Green.