Title defence gets tougher for Orange

EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Tegan Dray delivers the ball to gun shooter Sinead Davis in the Toyota Cup grand final. Both will be key players for the Orange Thunder this weekend. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0913sgnetball13

ORANGE’S defence of its Inter-Regional State League crown is in serious doubt after the withdrawal of four key players ahead of this weekend’s tournament.

Orange will head to the Anne Clark Centre, Lidcombe, for the second instalment of the inter-regional competition on Saturday and Sunday without gun defender Sheryll Selwood, centre-court star Jacky Lyden as well as shooters Erin Johnstone and Sophie Kloosterman, all unavailable this weekend.

A champion team with 19-straight Central West State League titles next to its name, Orange’s biggest challenge in nearly two decades will be this weekend.

Orange takes on Hunter in its first game of the tournament on Saturday, and with young talents Katie Eslick, Kirsten McIntyre and Brook Burcher all drafted into the side, Mardi Aplin was, despite the absence experienced players, confident of a strong title defence from the Thunder girls.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for these girls, they’re the next step for the Orange Association and for them to be able to play at this level and mix in with some of the senior girls is a great thing,” Aplin enthused.

“It’s a completely different Orange team. It’s half from the division one side, half from division two and then there’s little Brookie Burcher who was in the under 17s this year, but I think it’s still a very strong team.”

The official draw for the 2014 tournament will be released tomorrow, but Aplin was adamant of the six likely teams set to compete in this year’s Inter-Regional State League it was Hunter that posed the greatest opposition.

Hunter is the region with the highest participation rate of any at this year’s competition, and the Orange official believes if the Thunder is to be tested it’s likely to be by one of country NSW’s most renowned sporting regions.

“I definitely think it’s going to be tough,” she said.

“A lot of the Hunter girls play in the Sydney State League competition.

“I think there’s set to be six teams this year, which is great because that’s up by one on last year, so it’s good the competition is growing, but the Hunter game is going to be very interesting.”

ORANGE THUNDER: Sophie Beer, Katelin Eslick, Emily Callaway, Sinead Davis, Brooke Burcher, Shannen Downer, Tegan Dray, Amanda Hurford, Danielle Turner, Kirsten McIntyre

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.