Netball NSW's under 19s claimed back-to-back HeartKids Cup division one crowns on Sunday afternoon with a thrilling 42-38 victory over their fellow blue bibs, with boths side bound for the national championships in April.
In an all-NSW final, the older of the state's representative outfits held firm in the face of a spirited performance from their under-17 rivals, kicking on after the scores were locked at 20-all at the major break to lead by three at the final change and then slightly extend that advantage to four come the final hooter.
The final, played over four, 10-minute quarters, was one of the best hit-outs both state sides have had in their preparation for the National Netball Championships set to be staged in Brisbane in April.
Fifteen teams flocked to Sir Neville Howse Stadium for the eighth installment of the prestigious HeartKids Cup which started on Saturday and culminated in Sunday's final, the highlight of which undoubtedly Orange's two state representatives Annie Miller and Alex Emerson going to head-to-head on the wing in the final quarter.
Miller's under 19s emerged triumphant and the gun mid-courter said retaining the pre-season trophy would hopefully help NSW improve on its fifth-place performance at nationals in 2018.
In fact, she's banking on it taking the blue bibs all the way.
"I was in 17s last year and we weren't too pleased with a fifth … but it's definitely gold this time, for sure, that's the goal," Miller said.
NSW under 19s wins back-to-back @HeartKidsAust Cups after a thrilling 42-38 win over their under 17s state-mates. Both sides are gearing up for nationals in April.— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) February 24, 2019
Here's a snippet of the action on court 💪🏼🏐🥇🥇#heartkids#nsw@NetballNSW#netballpic.twitter.com/pL7gpcWUuS
The former Life Studio centre said coming back to Orange - she now plays for Manly Warringah after moving to Sydney - and leaving with the HeartKids Cup in tow was always the aim.
"If we have that as the goal the rest tends to fall into place, when we have that clear mindset of winning," the super-competitive Miller said.
"Even when we were scrapping, we pulled through in the end on the back of that belief."
Miller was tremendous during the final, as were the likes of Sophie Dywer and Matilda McDonald over the course of the two-day, pre-season carnival.
For the NSW under 17s, Emerson said her side relished the challenge of taking on their older state rivals and the fact they pushed them for the entire 40 minutes bodes well for their nationals campaign.
"I loved it," the Life Studio defender said.
It was great to come home and play on home soil.NSW under 17s representative, Orange's Alex Emerson.
"We see them train a lot but it was great to play against them, they put up such a great fight and it was tit-for-tat, we didn't give them any space. It was a great game.
"It was great to come home and play on home soil, too."
GWS Fury's star shooter Ange Frketic won the HeartKids Cup player of the tournament in division one.
NSW White took out the division two crown with a 31-18 victory over NSW Blue while GWS claimed division three with a 41-38 triumph over Baulkham Hills in their decider.
Tegan Hollan (division two) and Rachel Simmonds (division three) won their respective MVP gongs while Eliza Perkins took out the overall player of the tournament award.
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