‘They’ll treasure this’: Dray over the moon with Orange’s exceptional state age campaign

TIED ON TOP: Orange celebrates finishing equal first - second on a countback - at last weekend's under-15, division two State Age Championship. Photo: NETBALL NSW
TIED ON TOP: Orange celebrates finishing equal first - second on a countback - at last weekend's under-15, division two State Age Championship. Photo: NETBALL NSW

Orange and Lakeside’s under 15s both won 17 of 18 games at last weekend’s Netball NSW State Age Championships which forced a countback to determine the champion, a mere 1.67 difference on percentage eventually sealing the title for the latter side.

But after that kind of effort over the three-day carnival at Camden, which was the 50th edition of the tournament, Orange coach Tegan Dray was never going to get caught up in technicalities.

Dray, as competitive a player and coach as you’d ever come across, was over the moon after her side dominated division two and says it’s the perfect way for her troops to finish their state age careers, with under 15s the oldest age group at the tournament.

“We’re definitely considering it an equal first finish … they’ll treasure this, especially being their last year in state age,” she beamed.

“We went in with a plan, we wanted a top five finish (and) we’d had really good preparation with carnivals and then the (West-Central West) Regional League at the start of the year.

“I’d never single anyone out at this level, because to be successful at state age every single player has to contribute, and they were all just outstanding.”

The side – made up of Jordyn Chapple, Olivia Collins, Emily Irwin, Mackenzie Jones, Chloe Kearins, Poppy Keegan, Annalise Maier, Bailie-Rose Miller, Emily Provost and Milly Wilcox – went nine games before suffering its first loss, a 16-12 defeat to Inner Western Suburbs.

Dray admitted the loss was disappointing because she felt her side was capable of winning that one too, but said it provided a welcome wake-up call as well.

To be successful at state age every single player has to contribute, and they were all just outstanding.

Orange coach Tegan Dray

Without that loss, she said, her troops might not have gone on to win their remaining eight games, a streak that included a 12-9 victory over the eventual champions.

“I think that was just a mental lapse (against Inner Western Suburbs),” Dray said.

“That was our first really, really tough game and even though the girls were expecting it to be tough I think it still might have shocked them a little bit.

“It was disappointing to have that loss but I think it also really spurred the girls on and let them know they had to be at their best, and be switched on all the time for the rest of the games.

“We had a big focus on applying full-court pressure, creating turnovers and then making the right decisions after we’d done that. Everyone had their own roles in that plan and we had a focus on making sure they knew those roles and their responsibilities.

“To see that really come together and match it with the top teams and even beat the [eventual winners] was just great.”

COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW: Orange and Grasshoppers Fiji are all smiles after their round seven clash last weekend, which the former won 16-14. Photo: ORANGE NETBALL ASSOCIATION

COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW: Orange and Grasshoppers Fiji are all smiles after their round seven clash last weekend, which the former won 16-14. Photo: ORANGE NETBALL ASSOCIATION

The side is made up entirely of under-15 players and now, if they continue in the representative scene, they’ll need to do so as part of Orange’s under-17 side, which competes at the State Championships alongside the senior tournament.

Dray said she’s sure her troops will make the jump, either this year or next, but also explained she and assistant coach Sammie Spicer had made a point of making sure they enjoyed this achievement.

“That was a big thing for us, for them to enjoy the moment and not look too far ahead,” Dray said.

“I’m sure a lot of them will go on to play in under 17s and then open teams, some already have, but I think they’re all really just focused on enjoying this for the time being, I don’t think they’re looking to next year yet.”

Netball NSW has mixed up its format for 2019’s State Age Championships, with only under 12s, under 13s and under 14s competing. The under-15 tournament will join the State Championships.

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