Netball NSW’s generation next will take to the courts at Orange’s Sir Neville Howse Stadium this weekend for the seventh edition of the HeartKids Cup.
NSW’s under-17 and under-19 sides will use the annual pre-season tournament to launch their respective national championship bids, with little to no other competition netball available for the blue bibs to play in the lead-up to the April-held nationals.
A NSW futures and a NSW development side is also set to contest this weekend’s cup.
And with the ACT sending its own development and under-17 sides to Orange for the tournament as well, organiser Mardi Aplin says there’s a bit of a State of Origin feel to the 2018 cup that she’s looking forward to.
“There is that state-versus-state aspect with it as well, which is great,” she added.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity with the state teams here, too. They were all selected at the back-end of last year and they would have been training fairly regularly.
“But it’s a good hit-out for them, too.”
Alongside those four NSW state teams and the pair of ACT sides, last year’s champions North Shore returns alongside other Sydney Premier League outfits GWS Fury, Manly and the Eastwood-Ryde Hawks – all three of those sides are under 20s.
The GWS club is sending its open side, the Fury, and a development outfit, while association sides from Canberra, Tuggernong and Baulkham Hills will join two Orange teams. In total, 18 teams are in action this year.
Aplin will play in the Orange Netball Association side that will contest division one, with three divisions in play for this year’s cup.
The second ONA team will play in division two, but neither of these sides have been selected to take part in the West-Central West Regional League, which will kick-off in Bathurst on March 4.
Those teams will be confirmed in the lead-up to round one.
From humble beginnings as an exhibition game in 2012 to 18 teams this weekend, the HeartKids Cup has helped launch some of the careers of players that are now regulars with the Diamonds.
Australian gun and Queensland Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson played in 2012, as did Kristina Brice, who now plays with the Giants, and Sam Poolman, an Australian Fast 5 star and Giants player.
“The more the competition continues to grow, the calibre of players that come through the centre here in Orange is just fantastic,” Aplin enthused.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge for both Orange teams, which will be a mix of division one teams, but we’re up for it.”
Games start on Saturday at 11am and run to 6pm.
Play resumes on Sunday at 7.30am with the final games finishing at around 1pm.
- ORANGE DIVISION ONE: Mardi Aplin, Sophie Heta, Erin Johnston, Alice Maier, Milly Wilcox, Tegan Dray, Sophie Fardell, Kellie Watson, Emily Brisbane, Alex Emmerson, Kirstin McIntyre, Caitlyn Harvey.
- ORANGE DIVISION TWO: Kristin Zinga, Danielle Turner, Tara Nagle, Lucy Brisbane, Siara Jawai, Sophie Brisbane, Emily Williams, Farah Staniforth, Tabua Tuinakauvadra, Kate Marstronardi, Milika Tuinakauvadra, Erin Turner.