For Orange High School, Bathurst High School and Dubbo College there's no prize held in quite the same esteem as the Astley Cup and while it is a much-coveted one, for so many past and present the prestigious inter-school tournament is about much more than just winning a trophy.
We're provided testament to that every year when the calendar rolls around to June and the schools begin their preparations, when the respective tournament coordinators start talking of the passion the Astley Cup instills in its competitors, always through the celebration of its history and tradition.
Admittedly their words are oft so similar to those of their predecessors they have become platitudes in many ways but as they, whoever they may be, say, cliches become so for a reason.
To have this link to the Astley Cup through our family all the way back to my nan, it's just incredible ... the school spirit, that history, that's what it's all about and we're proof that never dissipates.Mel Hope
In the Astley Cup's case it's simply because, when you look at the influence the competition has had through its 97-year existence, it's impossible to not revel in the narrative and the joy it's brought.
Just ask Orange High teacher Mel Hope, who last week was lucky enough to watch her son Kaelan Portass become the fourth generation of her family to compete.
Yes, the fourth, you read that correctly.
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The family's rich Astley Cup tapestry all but stretches back to the tournament's inaugural year in 1923.
"My nan Rita Howard (nee Schofield) was the first in our family to play in the Astley Cup for Bathurst High in, we think, 1929," Hope said.
"She played hockey and netball, she was a goalkeeper in the hockey and back then all they wore was cricket pads (for protection). Around that time they had to stop billeting people out because of the Great Depression and people not being able to feed another mouth, and they used to travel by train to away legs."
Since then 15 more members of the family - that they know of - have competed.
Sue and Kevin Hope, Mel's parents, both played for Bathurst High, the former in hockey and the latter in rugby league and athletics.
Sue's sisters Sally Fulton and Marg Hurst both played hockey as well while Kevin's brothers Paul, Graham, Peter and Brian took the field in rugby league or athletics, or both. Kevin's sister Jude was a Bathurst High hockey star too, although she never played in the Astley Cup.
Mel herself represented Orange High's athletics and hockey sides between 1988 and 1991, skippering the latter in year 12, and her sister Annie followed in her footsteps following the turn of the century, playing hockey in 2002 and captaining the side the next year.
Mel's brother Matt played too, in the rugby league side. He was a Hornets star in 1988 but sadly missed out the year after, he was ruled out after suffering concussion in the side's Malynley Shield clash with Gosford earlier that year.
Now the mantle's been passed to young Portass.
At just 14, he made his debut in Orange High's athletics team last week, running in the 100-metre sprint and also taking on the third leg of the relay, smashing his personal best time in the process.
On top of all that his father Brent played in the school's rugby league side between 1993 and 1996 too, and Portass is expected to follow in his footsteps in the coming years considering he's in the Hornets' under-14 side now.
"Brent thinks he did the 400 metres in athletics too, very badly in his words," Hope laughed.
"To have this link to the Astley Cup through our family all the way back to my nan, it's just incredible. I loved being able to represent my school. The school spirit, that history, that's what it's all about and we're proof that never dissipates.
"I still love watching as a teacher at Orange High and my brother Matt still makes the effort to go out and watch the rugby league games every year.
"It was absolutely amazing to be able to watch Kaelan, proud is an understatement. Seeing him among the senior students, shaking hands and having a chat, it was a very touching experience.
"Having the whole family sharing Astley Cup stories with him, he was so proud and excited to be a part of it too, it really is a very special event for us all."
The family's ties to both Orange and Bathurst beg one obvious question, where does everyone's allegiance lie now Portass is the sole competitor?
"My mum said as soon as us kids went to Orange High she'd be supporting us, but she still cheers for Bathurst when they play Dubbo. I imagine the Bathurst connection still goes for them," Hope laughed.
And what of those stories, of which Hope and her family no doubt have so many?
"We were still billeted out when I was competing and there was some interesting experiences there," Hope said.
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"But I used to love listening to my mum and aunt tell me stories about their time, for instance in their day the disco was always more of a ball, it was very formal and a very big deal."
More stories of the tournament can be found with any former or current competitor and Astley Cup legend Lynne Middleton made a stirring speech in the lead-up to the 2018 tournament, spinning a number of her yarns at Orange High's pep rally.
This year's assembly was raucous too and Hope said, leading into this week's final tie of the 2019 edition, it's one part of the annual event she loves the most.
Now she's able to add watching her son compete, as he will this week against Dubbo College.
Forget the fact the tie is technically a dead rubber too, with Bathurst sealing their third straight title last week, in Hope's eyes that's not important.
"The effort our kids went to with their promotional videos and all their pump-up work is just incredible, it was amazing and that's what it's all about, I love seeing that passion," she said.
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"It's a brilliant time to be involved because of the amazing spirit there is in our kids and the other schools too and I'm blessed to be able to re-live the whole experience as a teacher, and being able to watch my beautiful boy now."
This week's final tie of the 2019 tournament begins on Wednesday and finishes on Thursday.
Wednesday's opening day kicks off with tennis (9.30am, Ex-Services Tennis Complex) and continues with athletics (11.30am, Orange High), girls' football (1pm, Orange High) and boys' football (2.15pm, Orange High).
The Mulvey Cup debating is that night from 5.30pm before netball kicks off Thursday's second day at Sir Neville Howse Stadium from 11am. Basketball (11am, Sir Neville Howse Stadium), hockey (1pm, Orange Hockey Centre) and rugby league (2.30pm, Wade Park) finish the competition.
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