Pride on the line as heavy-hitting Lions face off in epic all-Orange City play-off

LIONS ROAR: As the club's president Sarah Thorley is stoked her club is guaranteed two top three finishes in division, but she still hopes her side is the one that wins through to the decider. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
LIONS ROAR: As the club's president Sarah Thorley is stoked her club is guaranteed two top three finishes in division, but she still hopes her side is the one that wins through to the decider. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Orange City Netball Club president Sarah Thorley admits it’s a little disappointing the club’s two Toyota Cup sides won’t meet in the grand final, but even so, she says two guaranteed top three finishes makes 2018 a huge success anyway.

This season was the first time the Lions opted for an even split of talent across their two top flight sides and how they’d fare was “a bit of an unknown”, but now they’ll face off in a no doubt electrifying preliminary final contest on Saturday.

Thorley’s Craig Harvey Mechanical outfit finished second before being beaten by the Orange Physiotheraphy Vipers in extra time in last weekend’s major semi-final.

After finishing third, the Lions’ Newey’s Drive-Thru Cleaners side downed Hawks Royals in the minor play-off to set up an all-Orange City epic this weekend.

“It was definitely the goal to have both sides in the big dance but from a club perspective having two sides trying to qualify for the grand final is still a really successful year,” she said.

“We really weren’t sure how we’d go at the start of the year, being the first time we’d gone about splitting the two sides evenly, it was a bit of an unknown.

“To be a bit selfish, yes, I’d love for my side to go through but from the president’s perspective I’ll be happy either way, we’ll have at least have one side there.”

There’s no secrets between the two Lions outfits either, considering they’ve trained together all season and share the same mentor in Cindy Gilchrist – who has the tough task of sitting between both camps at Sir Neville Howse Stadium on Saturday.

“It might be a bit bittersweet for Cindy I think, either way,” Thorley laughed.

“We trained together for half of this week and then split for the other half but we’re all there to support each other as well, I think it’s going to be a really good game. I think the grand final against Vipers will be a great game too, regardless of which side goes through.”

There’s no obvious favourite in Saturday’s blockbuster either.

Thorley’s side lost just two games this year – one happened to be to their clubmates – while the NDTC outfit dropped four, but they’ve won seven games on the trot leading into this weekend.

“They’ve been playing extremely well,” Thorley said of the NDTC side.

“They’ve come together in the back end of the season, I think it just took a little while for them to get a few combinations going.

“This year’s been a real success in those terms too, to be able to get a lot more of the younger players into both sides and develop their skills, have them being mentored by some of the more experienced players.”

ON A ROLL: Lauren Williams and Orange City Newey's Drive-Thru Cleaners have won seven games in a row leading into Saturday's preliminary final derby. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

ON A ROLL: Lauren Williams and Orange City Newey's Drive-Thru Cleaners have won seven games in a row leading into Saturday's preliminary final derby. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

While there wasn’t much to pick apart from last week’s loss – there never is when a side goes so close to winning – Thorley did say her CHM side did find one area to focus on.

“We’ve spoken about intensity (after last week’s overtime loss) and just a bit more consistency with it,” she said.

“Being able to put together four consistent, intense quarters is the area for us to focus on.”

Putting her president’s hat back on, Thorley also added how stoked she and the club is to see such a big orange and green presence in this year’s finals across the seven divisions.

The club has division three, five and six sides vying for a grand final spot this weekend, while a couple of others were beaten semi-finalists last week.

”It’s been great to have so many sides make the finals and now trying to get into a grand final,” she said.

“We’d really love to get a few into grand finals and then see them win, because our presentation night is the day of the grand finals (on September 15) and it always makes for a great night when we’ve got plenty to celebrate.”

Saturday’s Toyota Cup preliminary final starts at 2.50pm on Sir Neville Howse Stadium’s show court.

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