The NSW Country under-16s side featuring Dubbo’s Amelia Raidaveta and with Claire Hargreaves in the coaching crew has progressed to the quarter-finals of the Australian Championships in Perth.
A 68-55 win over Tasmania on Wednesday cemented a second place finish for the girls in their pool, meaning they will face the third-placed side from the other pool in Thursday’s ‘elite eight’ playoffs, with that match to be played at 5pm (AEST).
NSW Country has won four of their six pool matches, with their only losses coming against competition favourites Vic Metro (57-36) and SA Country (61-51).
Hargreaves said the team has improved through the tournament and plenty could be taken from those losses.
“We were actually up by five points at half-time against Vic Metro but they are relentless and they just wore us down,” she said.
“They have been winning all their games by 30-40 points so 21 wasn’t too bad a result.
“And against SA Country we were up by 21 points at one stage and lost by 10. The girls just drifted from the gameplan and it cost us but they’ve picked it back up and we’ve won our last two games.”
One of the most intriguing matchups came when the side played Qld South, and a former protege was on the court for the northerners.
Neve Tratt has been attending school in the sunshine state on a scholarship, but still wore her Dubbo Rams socks onto the court.
“That was actually a bit weird coaching against Neve after she was one of ours for so long, and also for Amelia being on the opposite team,” Hargreaves said.
While Raidaveta is the tallest and strongest player in the squad she is also the youngest, and as such, coach Daniel Palmer has limited her minutes so far through the tournament.
It’s part of a plan that could see her dominate next year’s championships.
“Amelia is our only bottom-age player so she has come along to get an idea of the standard and speed,” Hargreaves said.
“She gets disappointed because she wants to play but you don’t get many players with her combination of height, strength and skill so it’s a matter of managing that.
“She had an injury and only got back into training for about a month prior to the titles. But if she learns from this and works hard for the next year she’ll nearly be unstoppable next year because she’s a rare talent.”