North West manager Jenny Steepe was figuratively and literally dripping with pride after they claimed an historic State CHS Girls Championship bronze medal in their home pool on Thursday.
“That was incredible”, Steepe said as she got out of the Scully Park pool after being thrown in amid the jubilant celebrations following the 6-3 win over Hunter.
It’s the first time the zone side has medalled in the 38 years of the carnival.
Indeed making the semi-finals was a first in itself and was, heading into the championships, the goal.
One they eclipsed.
“I told the girls they should be so proud of themselves,” Steepe said adding that they have “been building for this for a while”.
“We’ve been knocking on the door,” she said.
“Two years ago we went down to Riverina by two goals (to miss the semi-finals) and last year we went down to Riverina by one.”
The bronze was the icing on the cake for the long-serving manager with this year’s championships her last in charge.
“My first was in 1989,” she recalled.
She has had a couple of years off here and there but has been a constant presence pool deck.
“I said last year I’d go around one more time because the carnival was here.
“I started here and I finished here,” she said.
She said that the play-off was one of the best performances she has seen from a North West side in her time.
One of the key ingredients was their team-work. That wasn’t just limited to the Hunter game.
“It was a good allround team effort,” Steepe said.
That was reflected in the fact that everyone scored a goal over the four days.
HOW THE WEEK UNFOLDED:
Sarah Hofman iced the victory ripping one from out on the right inside the final minute after Jorja Irwin had given them a two-goal advantage with two minutes to go.
The final goal was Hofman’s second for the game with Giaan White bagging three.
The captain was deadly from long-range and put them ahead in the final quarter after scoring a screamer in the final seconds of the third to level the scores at 3-all.
“Once we levelled, and then once that one went in to put us in front again, their spirits dropped and ours soared,” Steepe said.
From there North West really applied the defensive pressure.
They picked up a number of crucial turnovers and when Hunter did manage to get a shot away keeper Bianca Mulligan denied them.
White, who then had to head down to Sydney for the State Blues awards, led the side superbly and was named their most valuable player.
The win was all the more special for her being her final campaign after being part of the side for the last five years.
“It’s pretty special and exciting to get third place. We’re the first North West team ever to make semi-finals let alone get third place,” she said.
She felt they saved their best till last.
“It was our first game I feel like we actually connected,” she said.
“We started out strong and everyone held their right positions that they were supposed to. I think that’s why we didn’t really make any subs because we were all in the right head space for it. We all wanted that win.”
There was further cause for celebration at the selection table with Lucy Hofman and Mikayla Gross named in the CHS Firsts teams.
The medal was also the perfect present for birthday girl Rachel Barnes, who turned 13.
Earlier they had gone down to Sydney North in their semi-final.
Sydney East went on to be crowned state champions upsetting Sydney North in the final.