Tiger cubs primed for big crack in 2017 season’s final test

TIGERETTE-IN-WAITING: Elizabeth Gibson gets her side out of danger earlier this season, she'll be playing in three games at Sunday's junior grand final day. Photo: ORANGE TIGERS
TIGERETTE-IN-WAITING: Elizabeth Gibson gets her side out of danger earlier this season, she'll be playing in three games at Sunday's junior grand final day. Photo: ORANGE TIGERS

The Central West AFL junior seasons reach their climax on Sunday and there will be plenty of black and gold streaking across Bathurst’s George Park.

Signalling the Orange Tigers’ secure future, the club’s under 12s and under 14s have qualified for their respective grand finals this weekend while the youth girls’ side will be also be in action, in its final two games of this year’s pilot program.

The Tigers have long been a powerhouse in the juniors boys’ ranks, but the club has been buoyed by massive numbers in the youth girls’ side, which has improved every time it’s taken to the paddock.

Tigers coach Emma McClelland labelled the concept “a massive success”, and she couldn’t be prouder of her troops either, despite not yet scoring a victory.

“In my opinion the youth girls’ pilot program has been a massive success,” McClelland, who also plays in the Tigers’ senior women’s side, enthused.

“The Tigers have been able to field between 16 and 20 players every weekend and the girls involved have come from all different sporting backgrounds to give the game a go, their enthusiasm and dedication toward learning a new sport has been incredible.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to coach these amazing young women.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to sing the victory song, but with the improvements we’ve made over the last five weeks maybe this weekend is our time to shine.

“(Last weekend) the conditions were tough for both teams, it was blowing a gale. We had a great first half but Cowra took advantage of the wind in the third quarter to put four quick goals on the board (and go on to to win).

“Also, a massive congratulations and good luck to the under 12s and under 14s playing in their grand finals.”

DOUBLE CHANCE: Arthur Locke is one of a handful of Orange Tigers' under 12s that will be back up in the club's under 14s side too, in Sunday's grand finals. Photo: ORANGE TIGERS

DOUBLE CHANCE: Arthur Locke is one of a handful of Orange Tigers' under 12s that will be back up in the club's under 14s side too, in Sunday's grand finals. Photo: ORANGE TIGERS

The youth girls’ side takes on the Bathurst Bushrangers 1.05pm and the Cowra Blues at 1.40pm, after the junior grand finals.

The Tigers take on Cowra in the under 12s decider at 10am, before the black and golds’ under 14s clash with the Bathurst Giants at 11.30am.

In a real signal of their undeniable talent, Elizabeth Gibson and Sophie Beatty – the youth girls’ side’s co-captains – will both line-up in the Tigers’ under 14s side before playing their other games.

The under 14s finished second after the regular season but the odds are stacked against them, the black and golds are yet to beat the Giants in 2017. The closest they’ve gone was a thrilling draw in round six.

Form is on the Tigers’ side though, the young guns put the Bathurst Bushrangers to the sword in last weekend’s preliminary final, winning 15.11.101 – 0.2.2.

The Tigers’ under 12s on the other hand, well, they’re very short-priced favourites.

Orange went through the regular season unbeaten, accounting for the Blues on four separate occasions, all by five goals or more.

The most recent of those wins was in round 10, when Thomas Bock kicked three goals to lead the Tigers to an emphatic 41-point victory at Cowra’s Mulyan Oval.