At The Turn: Hills Hornets

As each Waratah Championship team reaches the halfway mark of their season, Sky Blue Hoops will take a look at their campaign to this point and their chances going forward. In this piece, we focus on the Hills Hornets, who have struggled to this point, but may have a brighter long-term future than is visible on the surface.

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It would be difficult to find someone who would disagree that a tough season was always on the cards for Hills in 2017. With a host of Youth League players suiting up for Championship games, the sheer step up in physicality and the experience of the opposition means that even the most skilful young players can find it tough. The loss of the experienced Laura Anderson to injury has also dealt the young Hornets side a blow in the early stages of the campaign as the young side looks to find its feet at this level.

As such, the Hornets have found themselves near the foot of the table yet again, as has been the case since the 2014 grand final team which featured Jamie-Lee Samuels, Casey Samuels, and Kate Oliver went their separate ways after that season. This season has see the Hornets conjure just the one win in their eight games to this point, defeating an understrength Illawarra side 63-51. They also came within a solitary point of knocking off Comets, losing 66-65 in a thriller. However, many of their defeats have been on the heavy side, including a 44 point loss to Norths and a 42 point defeat to Manly.

Despite a 1-7 record to this point that leaves the Hornets sitting in eighth position in the nine team competition, there are certainly positives to draw from the season so far. Madison Hare has shown herself to be a force on the glass, with a 19 point, 15 rebound effort against Bankstown the highlight of her season to this point. Sydney Uni Sparks player Sherrie Calleia has also stepped up to be the team’s second-leading scorer despite also playing SEABL and Youth League as well as fulfilling her Championship commitments.

Going forward, it shapes to be just as tough in the second half of the season as it has been in the first for Hills. Their next six games feature a pair of contests against Newcastle, and they also face Bankstown, Manly, and Sutherland. However, their final two games may provide a positive ending to the season. The Hornets face Illawarra and Comets, the two teams against which they have played their best games, in the final two games of the regular season. Whilst those games will no doubt be close contests, they are the best chance Hills have of securing a second and possibly third win of the season.

With such a young side, it would be remiss not to mention that the Hills Youth League side currently sits in third place at 7-4 after 11 of their 20 games. This is despite many of the team’s top players also playing Championship games, sometimes immediately preceding the Youth League games. The team has also been without Amelia Iskowicz, a player who would have also provided significant impact at Championship level, since early April. With the Hornets’ future Championship sides no doubt being comprised of many of these Youth League players, perhaps the future is brighter than it seems for the team from north-west Sydney.

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