Taking on the best as under 17s head to State Championships debut

READY FOR IT: Mikayla Riley, Alex Emerson, Ally Kaufman, Lucy Nagle, Rhiannon Dennis, Milli Lenehan, Kate Mastronadi, Emily Brisbane and front Farrah Staniforth, Ella Robins, Sophie Brisbane and Emily Williams. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 0608MSnetball1
READY FOR IT: Mikayla Riley, Alex Emerson, Ally Kaufman, Lucy Nagle, Rhiannon Dennis, Milli Lenehan, Kate Mastronadi, Emily Brisbane and front Farrah Staniforth, Ella Robins, Sophie Brisbane and Emily Williams. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 0608MSnetball1

The Orange under 17s side will be making their debut at the State Championships this weekend in Gosford. 

Not only that, the side – of which all but three are underage – will be playing in the competition’s top divisions as one of only two regional sides, going up against the strength of the metro netball sides. 

But ask player Ella Robins how she’s feeling in a word, the word isn’t nervous or worried or daunted. 

“I’m pumped,” she said. 

She’s one of the core group of players who have been heading away to the state age tournaments since they were 12, and says she absolutely loves the long weekends away. 

“It’s just going down as a team and I guess having fun with your friends and playing at a really high level, we encourage each other a lot, if we make mistakes we pick each other up,” she said. 

“I guess our goal is to play as hard as we can to our ability and do the best we can as a team.”

Teammate Alex Emerson echoed Robins’ sentiments, saying the main goal was to have fun and support each other. 

She had a few nerves ahead of the tournament but said they wear off pretty quickly. 

”One you get there it becomes more exciting and real,” she said.

“It’s a lot faster and harder than local competitions but it’s fun and worth every minute of it.”

While having fun is the main goal of the weekend – “memories from hanging out with the girls are honestly the best memories, we play pranks and do fun games and I think that’s best part,” she said – but also pointed out there was a big focus on how they carried themselves on the court. 

“Our main goal is to always have fun and support each other and go well but we also want to place as high as we possibly can.”

Both girls thanked their coaches, Mikayla Riley and Emily Brisbane, for being with them over the past three years. 

“They’ve made us improve a lot as a team and honestly we wouldn’t be where they are without them, all thanks to them,” Emerson said. 

Riley, in contrast, thanked the girls for their efforts during the year, as well as assistant coach Brisbane.  

“They wouldn’t be even looking at the division without the work they’ve done,” she said. 

“At the start of the year we talked about expectations, in junior years we kind of put it on them, Emily and I said ‘we don’t have any expectations’ and the girls have chosen where they want to get, as a majority we just want to get top 10. Anywhere above that will be awesome.”

Riley said she was “very excited” by the prospect of heading to their first senior tournament, with the under-17s separated from the junior divisions. 

“It’s a massive weekend  and it’s so hard because you go from 15s to 17s and obviously two age groups now of 16 and 17, two age groups in the one,” she said. 

“This is what we’ve prepared for, it’s what they do and they know the challenge going into it, we’re really close as a team unit and we’re looking forward to playing some hard, good netball.”