When Orange Netball Association life member Lynne Middleton praises a netball coach you know they must be good.
Middleton thinks Orange High Hornets mentor Tegan Dray is more than good.
"Tegan is a brilliant coach. She's a far better coach than I ever was," Middleton smiled.
This glowing assessment from one of Orange's greats came after the Dray-coached Hornets toppled 12-time defending champions Orange City in Saturday's ONA division one grand final 32-31.
Middleton coached Orange High's top side (and others) for 24 years and was at the helm when they made their last division one grand final back in 2008.
Coincidentally, that was when Orange City, then Robin Hood, kicked off their winning streak with a 47-44 victory, which included Tegan Dray turning in a stellar performance at centre for the winners.
Dray is known as a fierce competitor on the netball court and Middleton said she wasn't a pushover as a coach.
"Tegan has an innate and highly-developed ability to read a game, her greatest asset, but she also has a powerful desire to be the best that she can possibly be," she said.
"These high expectations make her a formidable opponent on the court.
"She develops her players' skills but also the same desire to believe in themselves and to keep going even when things are tough. Never give up. Tegan is not only a netball coach but a 'life mentor', concerned for the girls' welfare and caring for their development as people."
Middleton, and fellow ONA life member Toot Keegan, have coached these Hornets players in some junior sides, and knew how much the 2020 premiership meant to this side after an unprecedented year.
"They have been a team of champions," Middleton said.
"With Covid we have missed the final 16 series [for NSW Combined High Schools] which this team would have been up there. We have missed Western...We have missed Astley Cup, Marianne Murphy Shield. So this is brilliant."
Middleton had nothing but praise for the work the Hornets have done under Dray to become a premiership-winning senior side.
"These kids have listened and Tegan has moulded them into a group," she explained.
"They look after each other and they're friends with each other."
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