Despite the fact her side has won nine straight Orange Netball Association Toyota Cup titles and despite the fact it roared back into form in last weekend’s preliminary final romp, Orange City coach Cindy Gilchrist says the Lions are heading into the 2017 decider as underdogs.
Pushing the spotlight onto the in-form Hawks Royal, Gilchrist said the two blues deserve to be considered favourites after beating the Lions in the major semi-final and progressing to the decider first.
That was Orange City’s first loss of the winter, its first loss since midway through last year and its first major semi-final defeat since going down to Life Studio at that stage of the season in 2013.
“Hats off to Hawks, they deserved the first spot in the grand final and they deserve to go in as favourites this weekend,” Gilchrist said, moments after her side took down Vipers 43-34 in the penultimate play-off last Saturday.
Gilchrist said the two blues have built into their late season surge beautifully, a run of form the Lions’ mentor could see coming.
“I said to [Hawks player-coach Amanda Hurford] before their last round game against Vipers that they were hitting their straps,” Gilchrist explained.
“I’d watched them for a few weeks and said they were about to hit form and they hit form, no doubt about that.”
Saturday’s decider is a rematch of last year’s grand final epic – one of the great Toyota Cup deciders – which Hawks forced into extra-time.
The Lions did end up prevailing 64-62, continuing the dynasty they began way back in 2008 when they bested High A in the decider.
Since then Orange City – formerly Robin Hood – has been nigh on unbeatable in finals netball.
In fact, the defeat they suffered to Hawks a bit over a week ago was just the third post-season loss the Lions had suffered since their first premiership season.
All things considered, Saturday’s decider is far from a foregone conclusion though.
Gilchrist is predicting a tough, physical, in-your-face encounter.
“We play two completely different game styles, so I guess at the end of the day we’ll see which one wins out,” she said.
Vipers coach Lynne Middleton, one of Orange’s leading authorities on all things netball, agreed, suggesting the eventual title winner is anyone’s guess.
“I know Hawks have put a lot of work into this season, so they certainly aren’t without a good chance,” she said after Saturday’s loss.
“Orange City control the ball so well though, I think it’ll be a very, very good game. A great one to watch.”