Newcastle netball’s victory at the 2018 Netball NSW State Cup, returning home with the crowning trophy as well as the Inter-Regional State title, “speaks volumes” about the quality of Hunter netball, head coach Babette Armstrong says.
The State Cup brings together the strongest metro and regional organisations in the state, with the aim to find the best association for the year, and Newcastle have proven without a doubt they are one of New South Wales’ heavy-hitters with their win.
Despite taking out the top spot in the grand final, the Novocastrian representatives started off slow, grabbing a 28-28 draw against eventual first-placed Hills District (6 wins, 1 draw) before scoring three wins on the bounce.
The team then came up against bitter state rivals Orange, falling by a single goal in a 29-30 thriller in Round 9.
Newcastle then closed out the group stage with two more victories, accounting for Barellan & District and Northern Suburbs back to back to confirm their second seed heading into the elimination finals.
The Novocastrian squad had earned the bye straight past the opening round of finals fixtures, and welcomed Northern Suburbs before edging out the victory against them, 27-23.
Revenge was then on the menu for Newcastle as they moved straight to the semi-finals, knocking Orange off in a fast-paced 32-25 battle that booked the squad’s path straight to the big dance.
There they faced top-seeded Hills District, and continued their path of revenge by securing the 27-23 win over the tournament’s only undefeated team and lifting the state trophy at the end of the two-day marathon.
The finals run, and the team’s adaption across nearly a dozen games in just 48 hours, stands as a testament to the strength of the team and the region, Armstrong said, but she heaped praise on the individual players in the outfit after confirming the silverware.
“The girls all played amazing all weekend, there wasn’t any one real standout because they all turned up to play and just kept improving as a squad in each game,” she said.
“We had a few absences from the team that we first picked, so it was a massive effort from the girls to not only be picking up the wins across the group stage but also to be getting used to playing together after not much practice.
“I’m so proud to be a Newcastle coach and to be on the journey with these girls, it’s just a massive statement from the whole region to prove that we’re at the top of the state.”
While Armstrong cast a sweeping hand across the high-level performances of all the now-State Cup champions, the Novocastrian coach raised Katelyn Stansfield’s shooting statistics as a “major” element of their offence.
“Stansfield put up 95 per cent shooting across our games, she was simply incredible throughout the tournament and she provided exactly what we were looking for from our shooters,” Armstrong said.
While Stansfield racked up her strong percentage with 124 goals scored from a 131 attempted shots, fellow shooters Ebony Oakley and Abbie Gray also shone with over 80 per cent completion alongside Stansfield.
“Georgia McVey, Keeley Mullins and Fanogo Maher all were outstanding in defence across the two days, they really adapted well to playing in whatever set-up we went out with and it was brilliant,” Armstrong said.
“Everyone was just sublime though, Erika Simpson and Ellie McVey were strong on the wings and Narelle [Eather] – who was also squad captain – brings that major impact at centre, she was just amazing throughout every single game.”
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Newcastle’s commanding coach also believes the talent on show at the State Cup proves the next step for the region is within reach – having a representative team earning their place in the Netball NSW Premier League.
“We have such a depth of talent in the Hunter area, and I can just see it getting stronger and stronger, as everything comes together,” Armstrong said.
“Hopefully through all the processes with the Hunter Academy we can continue to build strength and unity, and we can aim up to play with a Hunter team in the Premier League – we have so many players in there already so we just have to create the pathway.”