They’ve been crowned the best in the Country, and now Central North’s victorious under-15 girls are preparing to test themselves against the best sides in the state.
The Jeremy Maslen and Kath Little-coached side were undefeated at the Central Coast on the weekend to claim the first ever 10-a-side Country Championship for under-15s girls.
Their success capped off what was a sensational start to the Kookaburras’ representative season, with the opens boys reaching the final and the under-17 girls finishing fourth, and a number of players being singled out for higher honours.
Jada Taylor (under-15s) and Piper Rankmore (under-17s) were both named best back for their respective age groups.
Rankmore’s efforts also saw her named in the under-17 girls Country squad, Miah O'Sullivan, Phoebe Mcloughlin, April Smith and Amy Raphael also impressing selectors.
Taylor was meanwhile named in the Country under-15s development squad along with Shanti Kennedy, Erika Maslen, Ashanti Pennell and Georgia Moore, while Doughal O'Reilly, Logan Griffiths, Hagan Size and Brady Mather gained selection in the open boys Country squad.
The under-15 girls were dominant all weekend.
Starting the tournament with a 22-5 win over Hunter, they went on to beat Illawarra 24-10, Central Coast 29-nil and Central West 39-5.
Little said the secret to their success was their team-work and the trust they showed in each other.
“They played as a team and played to their strengths, and because they’d bonded so well they had a trust that everyone would do their job,” she said, adding that because they worked so well as a team it allowed the individual players to play to their strengths and perform their role.
“Each girl was tasked with a job,” she said giving an example of one girl, whose job it was not to let anyone get isolated.
As their results reflected, their defence was also “very good”, while in attack the forwards worked hard to ensure the backs had good clean ball.
A lot of hard work also went into it, Little said, with the girls all given a strength and conditioning program to follow.
“They trained really hard,” she said.
She said Maslen had done a great job pulling them together and getting them technically right.
They will have a few days off training before knuckling back down to prepare for the State Championships in June.
The open boys had a great start beating Illawarra 21-nil. They then lost to Hunter 24-5 before pipping Central Coast 13-12 to make the final.
“The Central Coast game was a cracker. We came from behind,” co-coach Matt Grinter said.
“With a couple of minutes to go we kicked a penalty to lead and then toughed it out for two minutes.”
That was probably their grand final, he said, with the boys a bit flat early in the final, which Hunter punished them for opening up a 28-nil lead at half-time. The Kookaburras matched it with them in the second half but the damage was done as Hunter claimed the spoils 32-5.
He was rapt with how they performed especially given they had limited time together.
“We’d only played about 120-minutes of trial football going into the Country Championships,” he said.
“They really combined well as a team over the weekend.”
That was for him one of the highlights of the weekend, along with their forward running, their execution just letting them down a couple of times.
The under-17 girls finished the weekend with just the one win but still played strongly.
“We got off to a slow start. A couple of teams were short of players,” coach Andrew Bowden said.
It meant instead of playing 15-a-side as they had trained for they had to adjust to playing 12-a-side.
“That threw the girls,” he said.
He was impressed with how they backed each other up and supported each other, and even when they had multiple tries scored against them, stayed in the grind.
As the focus turns to Armidale this weekend for the under-12s, 13s and 14s championships, Central North Junior Rugby president Renee Park said the Central Coast results were a “very good start”.
“We were very proud of how they conducted themselves on and off the field,” Park said.
CENTRAL NORTH AWARD WINNERS
Open boys: Players player - Hagan Size, Best Forward- Logan Griffiths, Best Back - Lockie Smith
Under-17 girls: Players Player - April Smith, Best back - Phoebe McLoughlin, Best forward - Charlotte Maslen, Coaches award (Phar lap - big heart) - Amy Raphael, Coaches award (most improved) - Salliann Bowen
Under-15 girls: Best Foward- Erica Maslen, Best Back - Jada Taylor, Players player - Eliza O'Donnell, Coaches Award - Parents Player - Wilmie Van Schalkwyk