There’s no substitute for match practice, that’s why Netball NSW under-19 coach Lenore Blades was absolutely stoked her side had the chance to land in Orange and contest the HeartKids Cup as it continues its preparation for this year’s National Netball Championship.
She was even more pleased when her troops went on to win it, undefeated.
NSW won all five of its games over the weekend, defeating last year’s champions North Shore United (34-24), hosts Orange (40-18), Canberra (50-18), GWS Fury (36-29) and finally its under-17 equivalent (37-26) to close out the win.
“It’s a bit of a rehearsal for nationals … we’re still about eight weeks away so match play is always really important to make sure we’re putting into practice what we’re doing in courtwork and strategy sessions,” Blades said, going on to laud the concept as well.
“The key for us was building throughout the competition but we have plans and our main focus was consistency.
“We’re really pleased with the result but I think what the girls managed to put on the court consistently, in all five games, was more pleasing.
“The chance to play back-to-back games is a big thing too, because at nationals we play two games a day so being able to back up quickly is really important for our preparation.
“There’s things like travelling and staying as a group and bonding too, so it wasn’t all about the netball.
“It was a wonderful opportunity, Orange is a great little city and we’ve had a great time.
“It’s a great concept, we had a function on Saturday night with all the teams which was fantastic, and being able to help support HeartKids is great bonus on top of the competition.
“We were absolutely thrilled to be a part of it, it was great Netball NSW allowed us to come.”
The 19s’ last game against their under-17 counterparts was electric too, the speed of the game in particular was simply ferocious and the 11-goal margin probably wasn’t entirely reflective of how hard-fought it actually was.
“They’re all really great friends off the court, but there always is rivalry,” Blades smiled.
“They’re younger and have their things to work on and they want to perform well against the older girls, we get that opportunity to play against the 17s [in Sydney] a few times too but it’s nice to play them competitively here.”
The NSW side heads back to Sydney now to continue and finish its preparations for the national championship, where Victoria is gunning for three straight titles, at Adelaide in April.