Tamworth talent played prominent roles as the NSW Combined High Schools girls and NSW Country women’s sides won gold at their respective national championships in Perth and Rockhampton.
Mikayla Gross was part of the CHS 1s side which beat Queensland 11-7 in the under-17s division final of the National All Schools Championships in Perth, while Libby Magann, Lucy Hofman, Morgan Rowbottom’s NSW Blues side completed a dominant Australian Country Championship campaign with a 15-7 win over Queensland Maroon.
A first gold for Rowbottom and Hofman, it was Magann’s eighth from 10 tournaments.
The NSW co-captain she was also named in the tournament seven – one of five NSW players to make the merit side – and the most valuable player of the championships.
“I was very lucky to get this (mvp). It’s pretty special,” she said.
They were a class above their rivals with seven goals as close as anyone got to them. That was the other NSW side (Waratahs), which contained sisters Katherine and Emily Grellman and was managed by Gail Salter.
“We were pretty fit and very fast and had a good mix of experienced, and good young players,” Magann said.
Above all though they really played well as a team.
Also the Tamworth Water Polo secretary, she said it was great to see the likes of Hofman and Rowbottom stepping up, and Jake Mitchell and Lachlan Wheeler likewise for the NSW men.
Coached by Ross White and also featuring Laarn White, they had to settle for silver after a heart-breaking one-goal loss to Queensland Maroon in the final.
Leading 7-4 going into the final quarter the Blues couldn’t hold on, Queensland leveling at 7-all with a minute to go before stealing the gold from their grasp in the final seconds.
“They got and extra and scored off the last attack of the game,” Wheeler said.
Mitchell said they had a couple of good shots in the final quarter but missed them.
He and Wheeler were the babies of the team and learnt a lot from the experience, especially around tactics and set plays.
“There was a lot of experienced players in the side,” Mitchell said.
Usually a goalkeeper it was Wheeler’s first tournament playing in the field.
The Blues lost only game during the round games, incidentally to Queensland and by one goal.
Over in the west Gross’ NSW side also had only the one defeat – to finals opponents Queensland in their opening game.
Selected as the left hander in the side, Gross slotted a double in the 8-7 loss.
She also scored in their 12-11 semi-final win over Tamworth compatriot Giaan White and her NSW 2s side.
“It was pretty good water polo. It wasn’t ever easy,” Gross said.
In the final Queensland grabbed the early ascendancy.
“The first quarter they were up by two, but we made a few interchanges and in the end we had more fitness,” she said.
It is the second year in a row Gross has made the CHS 1’s side and she is still eligible for selection next year.
“I think it’s awesome Mikayla is in that team.
“It’s a pretty big honour to make the NSW CHS 1’s team,” Magann said.
White’s side just missed out on the bronze going down to Western Australia 7-5 in their play-off.
Gross will now turn her focus towards the Pan Pacs in New Zealand in July, where she will play for the NSW under-16s.
Hofman will also go away with the NSW Country side.