Orange’s young guns stood up in the clutch in last weekend’s opening round of the 2017 Netball NSW Central West Regional League, leading the Thunder to three straight wins and putting the side on course for a 22nd consecutive title.
Thunder coach Em Callaway highlighted the likes of Tara Nagle, Alice Maier, Cheynoah Merchant, Caitlyn Harvey, Lucy Brisbane and Beth Curtin as her side’s best in Sunday’s first round.
Nagle, Maier and Curtin took charge of the attacking circle in the absence of mercurial shooter Erin Johnstone, while Brisbane and Merchant were huge as well. Callaway reserved special praise for Harvey though.
“Caitlyn was probably my pick for player of the day,” Callaway said.
“She was incredible defensively and her and Abby (Tilburg) formed a really good combination back there.
“Sheryll (Selwood) is still there too, playing well, but having Abby and Caitlyn performing as well bodes very well for the future for Orange.”
The Thunder took down Mudgee in its opening game, winning 53-32.
“It was a pretty convincing win,” Callaway said.
“We didn’t know what Mudgee would be like coming in because they haven’t played before, we also didn’t have Tegan (Dray) for that game and obviously Erin, who missed the entire day.
“Lucy Brisbane did a great job in the middle without Tegan there and the attacking players were very strong too.”
From there, the Thunder sealed a 10-goal win over Bathurst (49-39) before finishing the day with a 65-23 drubbing of last year’s runners-up Nyngan.
“Bathurst was probably the toughest game we had all day, it was very physical and the girls did well to handle that,” Callaway explained.
“Tara and Beth were our attacking combination for that entire game and they did a great job handling that physicality.
“Nyngan, we were a bit surprised by that result but they didn’t win a game all day, so we went in knowing they probably weren’t as strong as last year.
“In saying that, I also heard quite a few of their players were unavailable, so we’ll keep that in mind for the next rounds.
“It’s the perfect way to kick the tournament off and it gives us a lot of confidence knowing our young guns can stand up and perform when they need to, if our more established players aren’t available.
“It puts us in pretty good shape for a 22nd title in a row.”
The second round of the Regional League is set down for March 26, with the final round and finals to be played on April 2.
Orange’s division two side – dubbed the Lightning – also put itself in great shape leading into the next two rounds, also winning all three of its games.
The Lightning downed Cowra (69-32), Bathurst (55-39) and Forbes (46-37).