It hurts now but all the defeat in both the Western Women’s Rugby League finals has done is make Group 11 players more determined.
Group 10 recorded a double at Mudgee on Saturday, scoring somewhat of a shock win in the under 18s final before justifying the tag of red-hot favourites in the seniors by blasting Group 11 off the park in the first half of that decider.
Group 11 rallied in the second stanza but by that stage it was all too late.
“Even though we lost we still had a laugh and a joke after the game,” Group 11 senior player and under 18s coach Amy Townsend said of the main game.
“We were very sad but every single one of us knows how much we’ve got to do and we’ll come back bigger and stronger and fitter next year.”
In the build-up to the final, coach Nicholas Wilson said his side couldn’t afford to give Group 10 any easy opportunities. Ball control and set completion was key.
In the first of the final, his side couldn’t have been much further from what he wanted. Errors and penalties allowed Group 10 into attacking positions and with barnstorming forward Hayley Lepaio charging forward, it was all to easy for the minor premiers.
Group 10 led 22-0 at half time, thanks largely to a double from player of the match Kaitlyn Phillips.
Demi Wilson and Tiff Clarke scored for a much-improved Group 11 after the break but the final result read 32-12.
“You can’t give that kind of head-start because you can’t chase it down,” Townsend said.
“No matter how good we were (in the second half), full credit to them (Group 10) because they came out firing.”
While Group 10 was undoubtedly the better side, Group 11’s chances were hurt by a suspected broken hand to Rhianna Sutherland inside the first few minutes of the game while half Kaitlyn Mason suffered a suspected broken cheekbone.
Despite that, Townsend said powerful forward Sutherland was again among her side’s best, along with Wilson.
In the under 18s, the result was much more close and only two late tries to Group 10 sealed the result and broke Group 11 hearts.
The likes of Maddi Chapman and Maddi McGuiness, as well as the consistent Taneka Todhunter, stood out for Group 11 but a stellar performance from Group 10’s Kiara Sullivan saw her side claim the title.
“We were in front with five minutes to go but I’ve got to give it to them (Group 10), they never gave up,” Townsend said, before focusing on the positives of the junior season.
“I think a lot of people forget the core group of my side is only 16 years old. About 13 of the squad are 16 and they can play for another two seasons.
“They’re ready for next season now, they don’t want to lose again but they’re just going to continue to grow.”
While understandably shattered to lose both finals, Townsend, Wilson and all those involved have had nothing but praise for the competition and the chance for female players to engage in the tackle game.
The attention now turns to league tag, with a number of players to represent Group 11 at Bathurst this weekend.