Orange Thunder, Dubbo, Orange’s under 17 young guns or defending champions Bathurst – take your pick.
Netball NSW regional development and pathways unit manager Mardi Aplin has declared this year’s race for the West-Central West Regional League crown as tight as she can recall.
Orange’s 21-year dynasty ended sensationally last year when Bathurst stunned the defending champions and, as a result, Aplin says the blue and golds deservedly head into this year’s title race as the side to beat.
But she was hesitant to say which of the three other sides in this year’s competition, which kicks off on Sunday at Bathurst, will likely challenge.
Instead, she’s convinced this year’s title race is wide open.
“It’s fantastic for the competition,” Aplin enthused as the league enters a new era following on from Bathurst’s victory in 2017.
“I’m pretty sure Bathurst is the same team, which means they’ll only get bigger and better. They go in as favourites.
They go in as favourites.Netball NSW's Mardi Aplin on champions Bathurst
“Nyngan is out (of the top division) and the Orange 17s take their spot, but Dubbo is back in all three divisions which is really great to see.
“Dubbo’s not behind the eight ball, there’s definitely growth in all of their sides.
“And Orange 17s are a fantastic group of young players, a lot of them are NSW identified too. Each game will be hard.”
There’s just four teams in the top division, but a host of the region’s associations are represented in the league’s lower grades.
“Lithgow, Forbes, Mudgee, some of the smaller associations, it’s particularly great to have those guys recognise that this is the premier netball competition in the area and that they want to be part of it,” Aplin said.
The winner of the west-central west top division will progress through to the final of the Regional League in September, which incorporates champion sides from across the state.
All sides play three games on Sunday at Bathurst, starting from 9am, before a second round at Orange on March 25 and semi-finals and final on April 15.