Northern seven on title trail

TAMWORTH and Armidale talent is dispersing south this week on the National U18s title hunt.

Tamworth’s Chris Ninness, Isaac Farmilo, Josh Worpel, Antony Doolan, Dana Constable  and Alice Arnott and Armidale’s Katrina Rekunow will all wear the blue of NSW at the national championships beginning today.

The girls are in Melbourne and the boys in Canberra.

This year, NSW’s presence will be even stronger – and by extension of that, the local presence – with NSW invited to field two sides.

Ninness, Farmilo and Worpel, who is hoping to overcome a finger injury to play, are in the top boys’ side while Doolan will line up for the Blues.

Down in Melbourne, Constable and Arnott will play for the NSW side and Rekunow the Blues.

NSW will be chasing back to back titles after winning gold last year.

Constable was part of that side and is one of around seven backing up.

It’ll be her third year in the 18s and “last unfortunately”.

She’d love to finish with another title.

“We want to win. It’d be good to do two in a row,” Constable said.

“It’s a young side but I reckon we have the talent.”

Another plus is they are a close-knit group.

She’ll play at the back and Arnott as a striker.

“We’ve gelled really well,” she said.

“There’s been a few 15s who have come in. They’ve all played together.”

Arnott is one of several stepping up from last year’s 15s side.

Constable is getting back to full flight after being dogged by injury the last couple of years.

She had compartment syndrome but had an operation to fix that in September, and is feeling good.

“I had three months off then worked my way back up,” she said.

She reckons Queensland will be their main adversary.

“They’ve got a girl in there who played some Jillaroos and will be tough,” she said.

Western Australia and Victoria will also be up there.

It’s a similar story for the boys.

They had a couple of days training down in Sydney to put the final polish on, but have come together pretty well, Ninness said.

“We’re looking pretty good. Most of us have played together before,” he said.

He’s come into the side this year but Farmilo and Worpel were there last year.

So too was coach Richard Willis. He’s got high hopes for them and would be disappointed if they didn’t at least make the semis, although he is aiming higher than that.

Last year they went down in the final in the last minute.

Wills has eight of that side returning, which is a huge bonus.

“Those eight gives you a really good set-up,” he said.

“They know what it’s about, know the intensity.”

“I’ll definitely be looking for Isaac to be strong up front.”

“Chris gives us a bit of an x-factor.

“He gives us something different.”

He can play him in the midfield or up front.

Doolan will also figure in the midfield for the Blues, while Worpel will play at the back and Farmilo up front.

He’s just back from helping Australia qualify for the Youth Olympics and will be hoping he can press his selection claims further.

Selectors will be keenly watching proceedings and will pick around 24 players to play in a trial on the first rest day.

NSW has been drawn in a pool with Queensland, ACT, Tasmania and the other NSW side, and will have a tough start.

“We play Queensland at 9am on the first morning,” Willis said.

“That will set the tone for the whole tournament.”

It won’t win it but it can set the platform.

They’ve then got the Blues the next day.

Both championships they’ll play everyone in their pool and then a cross-over game, with the top two from each pool then progressing onto the semis.

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