“What could have been”.
That was UNE Lions coach Ross Duncan’s assessment of their Uni 7s Series campaign, after the 2018 series concluded in Adelaide on the weekend.
The Lions finished seventh overall after going down to Bond University 10-7 in their seventh-place play-off on Sunday.
“We played some really good football at times,” Duncan reflected.
“We just couldn’t put two lots of seven minutes together.”
They showed they’ve got no shortage of talent with Inverell’s Rhiannon Byers and Maya Stewart named in the tournament ‘Dream Team’.
Eventual champions Griffith University were the only other side to have two players selected in the team.
“I feel there were a lot of positives came out of our series, especially in that pathway for bringing younger girls in and developing them,” he said.
“That’s what it is about.”
After Miah O’Sullivan made her debut on the Gold Coast leg, fellow Pirates young gun Phoebe McLoughlin got her opportunity on the weekend.
Unfortunately she picked up an ankle injury in the first game so was limited in her game time on the Saturday.
She got a bit more time on the field on Sunday.
“She’s a natural footballer,” Duncan remarked.
He said she was a bit nervous at the start but settled in and played some good football, and noted her combination with long-time team-mate O’Sullivan.
And while he would have liked to “step up the ladder a bit” he commended his sides efforts on the weekend.
Flight delays meant half the squad didn’t get into Adelaide until 11.30pm on the Friday night. They then had to turn around and play four games on Saturday.
They won two of them but led all four at one point. Against Griffith and the University of Queensland, who went on to battle it out in the gold medal match, they were up at half-time but as has been a consistent story throughout the series fell away a bit in the second half.
An elbow injury to Stewart in the third game didn’t help their cause for Sunday.
“She basically scores 50 per cent of our tries,” Duncan said.
“You lose that attacking weapon it’s hard to replace it.”
They went down to the University of Tasmania first-up 21-19 on Sunday, penalties hurting them and enabling Tasmania to build momentum.
But they managed to stay in the game and were, Duncan felt, finishing the stronger, but just ran out of time.
It was a similar story against Bond.
The only regional university in the competition, the tyranny of distance meant they weren’t able to train together as regularly as the other sides but the Lions consistently showed it they could match it with the best as highlighted by their victory over UQ on the Gold Coast.