“We still have plenty we can improve on”.
Orange coach Linda Macleod might not have meant them as such, but those eight words are a pretty ominous sign for her side’s Bing Lee West/Central West Regional League rivals considering the Thunder cruised through Sunday’s opening round unbeaten.
Taking the first step on its journey to reclaiming the title after its 21-year dynasty came to an end in 2017, Orange took down defending premiers Bathurst (55-35) and then its under-17 counterpart, the Lightning (56-36) before thumping Dubbo 81-34 at Bathurst Indoor Sports Stadium.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” Macleod said.
“I guess we did kind of go over to try and make a statement but at the same time, it was probably more just about putting what we’d practiced onto the court, getting together as a side and getting a look at our opposition.
“Obviously we’re very pleased with the three wins, it’s a really good foundation, but we still have plenty we can improve on too.
“We won’t be resting on our laurels or taking anything lightly though, that’s for sure.”
Although Orange’s winning margins – 20, 20 and 47 – suggest commanding victories, Macleod said the first two were anything but.
“The [Lightning], they were just amazing. They came out exactly as I expected and ran with us for a lot of the game, I think they were actually in front of us at half-time,” Macleod said.
“Bathurst too, it wasn’t really until the second half that we pulled away from them too, so there’s still plenty of competition, we certainly didn’t do it easily.”
Macleod labelled the entire Thunder side “very good”, but reserved special praise for shooters Danielle Turner and Erin Johnstone, along with wing defence Em Brisbane.
“Wing defence is position that’s forgotten about a lot of the time,” Macleod said.
“But she was excellent, her effort gave the rest of our side a lot of opportunities.”
Even Bathurst coach Michael Germach couldn’t fault the Thunder’s effort, although his side is far from out of the running after defeating the Lightning (45-28) and also thumping Dubbo (61-27).
“Orange have got themselves outstanding shooters this year. They have themselves an excellent coach in Linda Macleod, who’s the head coach of the WRAS team. They’ve got a lot of stuff worked out,” he said.
“It will definitely be a tougher assignment this year than last year … we need to improve our shooting, tighten up our passing and we need to make some other small improvements at training.
“We’ve now seen Orange play and who they’ve got, so we have a better idea of what to do next game.”
Although they lost to the competition’s two top sides, the Lightning did beat Dubbo (54-21) convincingly to take third spot on the ladder.
Orange’s under 15s look a real chance to claim the division three title too, based on the results available from day one.
The outfit took down its under-14 equivalent (56-23) and also defeated Bathurst’s under 15s (48-27), while the round three result wasn’t available at time of publication.
Orange’s under 14s followed their first-up loss with a second straight defeat, to Dubbo (48-40).
The second round of the regional league is at Orange’s Sir Neville Howse Stadium on Sunday, March 25 before the finals on Sunday, April 15 at the same venue.