Orange High School coach Pete Shea admitted his side is feeling some disappointment after coming agonisingly close to breaking what’s thought to be a 43-year state title drought, but he was still quick to label the Hornets’ second finish “a massive achievement”.
After claiming the Western title and roaring into Thursday’s decider Orange High fell at the final hurdle, relinquishing a 1-nil lead to ultimately fall 3-1 to defending champions Taree.
“There’s always disappointment, because you want to win these competitions and it probably makes it hurt a bit more considering we were 1-nil up with about 20 to go,” Shea admitted.
“But we all realise the magnitude of the effort as well, because there’s something like 2000 schools that qualify for this tournament so to finish top two, it really is pretty incredible.
“We finished second a few years ago when the likes of Madie Smith were coming through, two years in a row I think. I’ve seen a winning photo from 1975 I think it was, so it’s a long drought, but the effort of this side was just amazing.
“To see what they did the last couple of days, they won easily in the quarter and semi-finals, was great.
“Taree won it last year too and they’re a really good side, they backed up really well.”
Shea largely put the final loss down to composure, simply saying his side didn’t quite handle the pressure as well as their mid north coast counterparts.
“It really was a tale of two halves, I know that’s a cliche but more than one person said that to me on the sidelines,” Shea said.
“We would’ve spent the first 20, 25 minutes inside their half and we had plenty of short corners but we just couldn’t convert them. In the second half, they did the same thing to us and they did convert.
“It’s funny how momentum swings like that, and it was a really big swing. You wouldn’t have thought it was the same Taree side in the second half.
“We were put under pressure and that tells sometimes in big games.”
But a crucial point for Shea is just how young his side is. Only Sarah Barrett and Kathryn Cox will finish school this year, which he says “bodes well” for 2019 and beyond.
“We are young. Sarah and Kathryn were both huge parts of our side and they will leave big holes, but seeing the improvements a lot of this team has made, it’s very promising for next year,” he said.
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“I think a big reason we’ve been successful is that we have a handful of really key players, like Eva Reith-Snare for instance, and around them we have kids who know how to play the game and have slotted into their roles really well.
“Players like Libby Smith, who’s improved incredibly in the last month or so, Ally Cook, Kiana Pakinga, Sophie Goodall. You put another year on their shoulders, more experience, that’ll put us in really good stead.
“I think considering that and the fact we lost this one, we’ve got a really good opportunity to try and push for that title next year. It’s exciting times.”