The pressure’s on Life Studio, there’s no doubt about, but player-coach Mardi Aplin says her side is still confident it can return to form and sneak into the Orange Netball Association Toyota Cup finals.
The navy and lime bibs are perennial finalists and usually genuine contenders too, but find themselves on the outer with three rounds left in the 2018 regular season, four points adrift of the finals frame and in danger of missing the play-offs completely.
“It is a bit unfamiliar, for sure,” Aplin admitted.
“We just haven’t quite been able to get ourselves over the line in a lot of games, we’ve lost quite a few by small margins, a goal or two. We just haven’t been able to finish a lot of games off.
“I haven’t looked at the actual specifics, but I know if we were to drop this weekend’s game then it’d take something tricky for us to get up there and back into the top four, so the pressure’s all on us to basically win our last three games.”
Improvement’s needed for that to happen, clearly. Life Studio has dropped its last two games on the trot, and there’s no excuses in Aplin’s eyes.
“We do have a young side, but all the girls have largely been in division one for a while and they’re magnificent athletes so I don’t want to make any excuses,” she said.
“It’s not an experience thing, you could maybe say maturity in the crucial stages where you really need it, but as I said I don’t want to look for excuses.
“We just haven’t been consistent over a 15-minute period, let alone an entire game. We’ve been working hard on it and there’s plenty of confidence in the group, so hopefully it comes together over the last few weeks.”
Even if a finals berth does elude her side, Aplin says she’ll still consider the season a success, based on the steps her young troops have taken individually.
“A lot of them are progressing through Netball NSW’s pathways,” she said, Em Williams and Sophie Brisbane are two who have been in the mix for NSW selection recently.
“They’re developing their skill-sets every week and that’s a big win for us, we just haven’t been able to put it together here in our competition.”
Aplin also heaped praise on her club’s second-string, development side – the Mid West Eyes.
They’re sixth and out of finals contention, but they’ve continually developed and pushed some of the league’s powerhouse sides too.
“It’s a good sign for the future of Life Studio club,” Aplin beamed.
“Full credit to Middies, they’ve been really good this year. They’re a good, solid, young side and I don’t think any team’s had an easy game against them.
“Even when the margins have been a bit bigger than they might have liked, they’ve really pushed some of the top teams, particularly in certain quarters, and they’re only going to get bigger and better the more experience they get.”
Life Studio faces Hawks Royals in Saturday’s final round 13 clash at 3.50pm, while the Mid West Eyes take on OHS Hornets in the afternoon’s first at 1.10pm.
In the other two games Orange City Craig Harvey Mechanical faces their clubmates, Newey’s Drive-Thru Cleaners, in a blockbuster second-versus-fourth derby, while competition leaders Orange Physiotherapy Vipers play Hawks DVM.
Both those games start at 2.30pm, with all four at Sir Neville Howse Stadium.