Central North under-13s’ attacking mentality served them well in Armidale on the weekend, almost delivering them a NSW Country title.
The Chris Fowler and Ken Campbell-coached side finished runners-up after being outmuscled by Illawarra 34-25 in Sunday’s final.
It was another strong showing from the Kookaburras with the under-12s finishing fourth, Joey Fowler named best back of the tournament for the under-13s division and prop Benjamin Wineti selected in the Country under-14s squad.
The Kookaburras under-13s sizzled early thrashing Central Coast 62-0 in their first game. They then went down to Illawarra 19-14 before beating Central West 21-5 on Sunday morning to secure their place in the final.
Taking on a physically imposing Illawarra side, while they played well, Fowler said the Kookaburras “shot ourselves in the foot” by giving Illawarra too much possession in their half.
Several times after scoring a try they either didn’t secure or knocked on the kick-off.
Illawarra then turned to their pick and drive and by the time they got to the line they were too big to stop.
Fowler and Campbell were though all in all thrilled with how the side performed.
“They played really well together as a team, they stuck to their structure and really played good attacking rugby,” Fowler said.
He estimated 80 per cent of their tries would have been scored by the backs.
The second year in a row he has been named best back, son Joey directed the side brilliantly at five-eighth. Also the captain, Fowler said he has “got a good head on his shoulders and can read the play well.”
He and Campbell were optimistic going into the weekend with the squad they had.
“This year we had two bigger centres that could motor and some genuine speed outwide and we also had a good forward pack,” Fowler said.
Under-12s coach Angus Patterson said he and co-coaches Damien Timbs and Darren Crowther “couldn’t be happier”.
“The players were more than competitive against the bigger areas such as Illawarra and Hunter,” Patterson said.
They gave away a lot of size but really muscled up and showed “a bit of grit”.
There was only seven points in it when they played Illawarra after defeating Central Coast 45-nil.
Playing Hunter for a spot in the final they just lost that in the last couple of minutes.
It was quite a turnaround from being beaten by about 40 points in their trial game.
“It was good to see how they’ve grown,” Patterson said.
The under-14s found the going a bit tougher and finished eighth after losing all four of their games.
But as co-coach Ariki Wineti remarked they got better as the weekend went on and “grafted their way into it”.
“It was a big challenge for the boys,” he said.
The forward pack really stood up. In all of their games the forwards competed.
Hosts New England did well with their under-14s finishing third, and five players from the side – Darcy Booth, Tana Heron, Ben Rowe, Liam Hunt and Eli Lohse – joining Wineti in the Country squad.
Under 12s: Players Player – Ben Sleemna, Best Forward – Angus Riordan, Best Back – Max Patterson.
Under 13s: Best Forward – Lachlan Dietrich, Best Back - Joey Fowler, Players Player - Ben Chick, Forwards Award - Colby Davies, Backs Award - Don Watkins
Under 14s – Players Player – Ben Wineti, Best Forward – Hugh McArthur, Best Back – Jack Faulkner