While the results didn’t go its way, Central West took a lot out of the under 14s state championships over the long weekend at Orange.
The hosts of the tournament drew one of the shortest straws at the carnival by landing in a pool featuring Randwick, the ACT Brumbies and arguably the second-best side in the comp Manly, who came up against an unstoppable Penrith in the semi-final.
While Central West were able to take down Central Coast, the Baby Bulls’ final game ended in a 29-15 loss to Parramatta, consigning them to 14th position in the standings.
Central West assistant coach Andy Hillan, who worked alongside Dubbo-based head coach Doug Sandry, said his side started slowly in the final, losing ground to the “big pack of forwards” in the Parramatta outfit, but outscored the two blues in the second half.
“They started with three tries before we really got going, but we outscored them in the second half, found our rhythm and structure and attacked them on the flanks which was their weak point,” Hillan said.
While he said injuries had taken its toll, difficulty training together made a recent structure shift an issue for the side.
“We haven't spent too much time together which didn’t help and our structure is totally different, but didn’t answer some of the missed tackles and passes,” Hillan said.
However, the players would take a lot out of the weekend, both from their performance on the field and from watching clubs like Manly up close and standouts Penrith from the sidelines.
“They’re absolutely improving, there’s a lot of improvement in this group and it’s been a big learning curve for the boys,” Hillan said.
“Dougie Phillipson [from Emus] on the outside was absolutely excellent, and [front-rower] Nosa Obaseki was also outstanding and well deserved his country selection.”
He also mentioned skipper Leo Bassingtwaite, who like Obaseki is from Dubbo, was a very consistent performer for the side, as was Mudgee’s Jack Webb, but said it was great to be able to bring quality sides to their turf.
“It’s a really well run competition, playing at home in the Central West is always nice and we hope they keep it here.”
While there was a little disappointment in the Central West camp, there was none for Penrith in what was a stunning Championship win.
The side, made up mainly of players who won last year’s under 13s title, blitzed the tournament at Orange and downed Gordon 29-10 in Monday’s grand final at Endeavour Oval.
“They’re a bunch of champions,” victorious coach Ronny Patea said of his side.