World Cup a triumph for northern crew

ZETA Knight went to New Zealand with the Australian Indigenous Senior Mixed Oztag side on something of a mother-son trip with her talented, and quick, son Zarayn.

16-year-old Zarayn was originally picked in the Australian Indigenous Under 18 side but was then bumped up to the Indigenous men’s open side with Tamworth’s Jobe Bottrell for the week-long Oztag World Cup in Auckland.

Tamworth’s Steve Corbett (Australian O35s) and Warialda’s Mitch Porter (Australian Open Men) also toured in the World Cup and also won gold.

But for Zeta Knight, a representative touch and oztag player for many seasons, the chance to go to NZ and play in a World Cup with her son was a major thrill.

“He went real well too,” Zeta said after recovering her voice.

She had been left croaky and almost speechless by a NZ bug but once home and a little rested, her renowned bravado and happy-go-lucky demeanour returned in full force.

Zarayn, she said, was named MVP for his side after some excellent efforts in a side that finished fourth.

However her side, the Indigenous Senior Mixed, won.

“We beat Australia 7-6 in the final,” she said.

“It was a thriller, a real pearler. 

“It was great to beat them. They’d won it enough times. 

“Hearing the didgeridoo playing in the final gave me a real good feeling too. 

“We led well but then the Australian team came back. It was close but we held on.”

She had been to NZ for the Oztag World Cup before, heading across with an Australian Indigenous Mixed Open side a few years ago.

Now in the twilight of her career, where she is coaching some talented young girls through, she can add a World Cup title to her long list of representative honours and successes.

Corbett was also named his side’s mvp and was their top tryscorer.

It was his first time away with an Australian side.

“I was picked for the squad last year but didn’t end up going,” he said.

“I was lucky I made it this year for the World Cup.”

He said it was a great – and interesting – experience.

“It was quite bizarre. The second day’s play we had that tornado that interrupted play,” he said.

After winning their six round games and then semi-final against Samoa, the Aussies came up against Lebanon in the final.

Lebanon had defeated a New Zealand side containing former league international Steve Price and that the Aussies thought would be their toughest opposition, and pushed the Aussies all the way.

“It went into a drop-off situation after scores were locked at 5-all at full-time,” Corbett said.

Not without some controversy, with Lebanon being awarded a penalty try on full-time to level.

Both teams had a player sent off as a result, meaning they started the drop-off with only five players.

“We played most of the first period before we scored a try,” Corbett said.

He was the one who crossed to give the Aussies the win.

Porter’s open men had an easier time in their final, beating the Australian Barbarians 11-3.

“We did play pretty well in the final,” Porter said.

The Oztag Australia president even made the comment that it was one of the best games of oztag he’d seen.

“We had a pretty amazing team. They said it was probably one of the best men’s opens teams,” Porter said.

He had played with them last year but that was only against New Zealand.

This time it was the world.

They had some big wins on their way to the finals, with Porter scoring five tries in one game against Fiji.

Their semi against New Zealand Maori was a lot tougher. 

It ended in a 5-all draw but the Aussies progressed as the first tryscorer.

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