Learning what’s required to compete at the next level was what a raft of Dubbo Rams juniors took out of the weekend’s John Martin Country Tournament.
The under 14s girls side took out the third division title in the undoubted highlight of the weekend while the girls’ under 12s went on an unbeaten run to the final only to suffer a tough defeat in the final match of the long weekend.
It was a different experience for the under 14 boys, who went into the tournament after claiming the Western Junior League in some style earlier in the season.
It was tough going at the Central Coast as the Dubbo youngsters took on some of the best players not only in NSW but also Australia.
But coach Michael Bonney said it was all a learning curve as his side prepares for its next tournament.
That one is in the coming weeks, with the Dubbo 14s taking on all the other regional league winners from around the state.
We know what level we’ve got to be at and I’m confident we’ll get there.Michael Bonney
“We were going up against some of the big city teams and some of the best players in the country but we played well,” Bonney said.
“Some of our bench players got real experience. We’ve got NSW Country representatives and they’re good players but others stepped up and that’s good for us .
“We know what level we’ve got to be at and I’m confident we’ll get there, even after a couple of losses.”
Against Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Illawarra and Canberra – all vastly bigger centres than Dubbo – the Rams suffered defeats, but there was still plenty of development shown.
Like all the Dubbo junior teams, Bonney’s outfit has come a long way since the first training session of the season.
Bonney singled out Reece O’Neill for praise, with the young gun having to step up during the weekend against a number of much larger players.
The match against Illawarra was a real highlight as O’Neill performed well when lining up against one of the best players in the division.
“It’s very special to see some of the kids grow, both in height and in terms of talent,” Bonney said of his side.
“It’s great to see them excited to play and want to be better every time they play.”
In terms of excitement, there were few more pumped on the weekend than the Dubbo under girls outfit.
The opening day of the tournament consisted of a tight win over Gosford before a narrow loss to the Coffs Harbour Suns.
The Rams shot back into title contention on Sunday when downing both the Canberra Gunners and the Shoalhaven Tigers before producing class performances in semi-finals, beating the Newcastle Hunters and Illawarra Hawks.
That set up a another clash with Gosford in the final and the Rams claimed the title after a 24-16 win.
“We were all keeping track of the scores and they all represented Dubbo well,” Bonney said.
The Rams under 12s girls dominated early but came up against a red-hot Canberra Capitals side in the decider and suffered a 23-9 loss.