Orange High School's hockey side is considered a linchpin in the Hornets' 2019 Astley Cup tilt and it's not difficult to see why, they boast almost half of the Western Combined High Schools side and one of the competition's most dominant individual forces after all.
Hornets guns Libby Smith, Sophie Goodall, Brooke Pilcher, Emily Gould and Ally Cook all helped Western to a silver medal at last week's state championships alongside Eva Reith-Snare, the latter winning player-of-the-tournament and earning a NSW gig too.
It's that kind of form that's led to Reith-Snare being a revelation in the Astley Cup recently, so much so she's largely considered among the absolute elite competitors across the inter-school competition's 96-year history.
The last two years are a nod to that status, Reith-Snare played three of the Hornets' four fixtures in 2017 and 2018 and accounted for 10 of the side's 12 goals.
The one game she didn't play, against Dubbo College last year, was the only one the Hornets lost too, a shock, 3-1 defeat on the road.
The black and golds' one goal in that game came courtesy of Smith, who's played a monumental role recently as well, particularly in combination with Reith-Snare.
The pair, both in year 12, will combine again as the Hornets' co-captains in 2019 and both agreed it would a special moment to be able to hoist the cup in their final year as competitors.
"It'd just be unreal," Reith-Snare said.
"It'd be awesome to win in our last year here, go out with a real bang I guess," Smith enthused.
"Obviously we have to beat Bathurst first though, then we'd get the chance to win it against Dubbo at home," Reith-Snare added.
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Orange travels to face Bathurst this week before welcoming Dubbo to the Hornets' nest the following week, the former school in the box seat after claiming last week's opening tie.
The two-time defending champions need only to secure victory over Orange to claim a third consecutive title win, a feat they've achieved just once before.
Reith-Snare and Smith said they're aware of their hockey side's status and they'll embrace the pressure that comes with it.
While victory is crucial in the hockey fixture, the Hornets' potential winning margins will be too, considering the competition's unique, percentage-based scoring system.
"I think there is a fair bit of pressure but we can only do what we do and try to play as well as we can, hopefully that's enough and we can get the results to help overall," Reith-Snare said.
"We do have a really good side, all the Western girls will need to stand up and then other (women's Premier League Hockey) plays like Lily Baker as well," Smith added.
Still, as last year's clash with Dubbo showed there is always the chance of being upset in either game. Reith-Snare and Smith, who play with Confederates and CYMS respectively in Premier League, said Bathurst will be strong.
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"They've got a good core group of players there at Bathurst," Reith-Snare said.
"There's quite a few girls in their side that play Premier League too, so we'll need to try and shut them down as much we can and hopefully score a few goals," Smith added.
Dubbo do remain somewhat of an unknown, although there is one gloved star they're both hyper-aware will present a huge challenge.
"Lilli," Reith-Snare and Smith said in unison, when asked of Dubbo's biggest known threat.
They refer of course to Lilli-Rai Campbell, the Dubbo goalkeeper who along with Phoebe Bloink-Hollier played the villan in the Hornets' shock loss last year and was named in the NSWCHS side too after a bumper campaign with Western.
"She's just a great goalkeeper," Smith said.
"We played with her last week with Western, actually that state championship was a pretty good way to lead into the Astley Cup for all of us, good preparation," Reith-Snare said.
"We got beaten by Hunter in the final, it was an arm-wrestle and I think we just ran out of legs."
The second leg of the 2019 Astley Cup kicks off in Bathurst on Thursday and continues on Friday. Smith, Reith-Snare and their side will somewhat know what they need to do as well, their clash isn't until Friday morning.
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