Since late last year Orange has been ferociously preparing for its tilt at this year’s under-15 Netball NSW State Championship title – one of the association’s white whales, so to speak.
Anyone who’s read Moby Dick will know exactly what that means but, in short, like the great white whale eluded captain Ahab a junior championship division title win is something Orange Netball Association has never captured.
It’s in with a shot in 2017 though.
Orange was superb in its under-14 division two campaign last year. The Thunder girls and Gosford couldn’t be separated and finished deadlocked with 16 wins and one loss apiece, however the latter side was declared champions based on percentage.
Moving up the under 15s in 2017, last year’s result earned the side promotion to the championship division, giving the Thunder a chance to make history and claim the city’s maiden junior top grade crown.
But, that’s easier said than done.
Gosford will also move up, but Orange is also expected to face off against the likes of reigning champions Liverpool City, Manly-Warringah, Newcastle, Sutherland and hosts Baulkham Hills.
How much tougher this year’s title bid will be isn’t lost on the side either, that’s exactly why they’ve been training so hard.
“We’ve been training since the end of last year, the girls didn’t really get much of a break after last season finished,” Orange coach Mikayla Riley said.
“We’ve really just been trying to work on the little things we know we can do well, to try and make sure we’re doing them perfectly once we start playing in carnivals and other competitions.
“We had our first round of the [division three Netball NSW Central West Regional] League on the weekend and even though we lost a game, we were pleased. We were trying out new combinations and seeing how they would work on the court.
“I’m not that worried about winning and losing right now, as I said it’s about trying new combinations and getting to where we want to be leading into the state championship.”
One thing helping the side is its familiarity with each other. The majority of the squad attends James Sheahan Catholic High School and plays its weekend netball with CYMS.
On top of that, of the 13-strong squad named 12 are returning from last year’s campaign. Haegan Boland is the only new addition.
So, can Orange win?
“Look, I won’t say we’re not a chance because the group is very versatile and very talented but we’re focusing on achievable goals at the moment,” Riley said.
“We’re a long way out, so we’ve spoken about what we want to do and we think aiming for a top 10 finish is a good mark to set.
“To win is the dream, but we’ll be [ranked] 19th or 20th so to aim to cut that in half as a result is probably realistic right now.”
The 2017 Netball NSW Samsung State Championship will be hosted by Baulkham Hills on June 10-12.
- ORANGE: Liv Basha, Sophie Brisbane, Rhiannon Dennis, Alex Emerson, Ally Kaufman, Lucy Nagle, Ella Robbins, Farrah Staniforth, Tabua Tuinakauvadra, Emily Williams; Reserves: Haegan Boland, Keely Prevett, Grace White