The Wellington women’s Wedgetails pushed their way through to the grand finals in the 2018 Koori Knockout before falling short against a gritty Newcastle Yowies outfit.
Coach Nathan Towney chalked the finals result up to a particularly stacked tournament bracket and a draining semi-final.
“We had it tough in the semi-finals against the defending champions, the Redfern All Blacks and we spent a lot of gas getting through that game,” Coach Towney said.
But regardless of the ultimate result, Coach Towney was satisfied with the team’s efforts.
“The goal going into the Knockout is always to make it to the Monday, that means you’re in the final four and it’s a great result.”
The final pushed both teams to the absolute limit, with the Yowies taking an early lead, which the Wedgetails pushed to catch up to by half-time before falling again in the second half as injuries and exhaustion set in.
“We had three girls sent to hospital after the game, one with a sternum injury, another with a suspected broken leg and a third girl took a knock to the head, so obviously we hope they’re all alright,” Coach Towney said.
The game saw the Wedgetails fighting with their back to the try line and staving off quick-moving attacks from the Yowies wings and forwards as constant possession changes and momentum shifts kept both teams from getting too comfortable.
“Our try at half-time was really brilliant, then as we came back the injuries and a few dropped balls gave the Yowies the momentum in the second half,” Coach Towney said.
All the way throughout the finals games on Monday the crowds were out in full force and cheering their favorite players on constantly, with particular applause for the team’s ‘nucleus’ of Shaw sisters.
“Katie Shaw, our hooker, she’s really been the glue of the team, she’s been guiding us around the field very well.”
The women’s finals were followed by the men’s division, where the Newcastle All Blacks triumphed over La Perouse Panthers in a nail-biting finish that drew standing ovations from the crowds.
Wellington took possession at kick-off, driving hard and attempting to find holes in the Yowies’ firm defence and grasp of the field.
Grueling, early back and forth action forced both teams to draw themselves thin early, with possession changing hands constantly as the team forced each other into errors and turned the early game into a hard slog along the Wedgetail’s try line.
More scrums followed, with the ball moving between each team before the back and forth battle drew closer and closer to the Wedgetails line and gave the Yowies a chance to drive forward hard and score.
Sustained offence off the Wedgetails return and the Yowies pushed the Wedgetails line as far as it would go before slipping across the line and scoring again to make it 8 – 0.
Despite an astounding amount of pressure from the Yowies, the Wellington line held up as the game approached the end of the first thirty minute half.
Taking the ball back, the Wedgetails dug deep in order to turn the pressure around and make it through the Yowies’ defence and score their first try before bringing it to 8 – 6 with a conversion at half-time.
Errors and injuries began to take their toll during the second half, as the fatigued Wedgetails found three of their members taken away to be hospitalized as the urgent crashing of the two lines begins to break down Wellington’s defence.
Fighting with their backs to the goal-line for much of the game, Wellington simply couldn’t make the forward progress necessary to turn back the Yowie’s fast-moving offence and they widen gap with a fast-moving try around the outside.
The Yowies are a great them, their defence and line-speed were really good, they've got a couple of quick girls.Wedgetails coach Nathan Towney
Wellington pushed back with renewed energy in an effort to equalize, but ended up letting another two tries through before the Yowies converted leaving the score 22 – 6 at full time.
While the Yowies were women holding the trophy aloft at the end of the day, the Wedgetails had no reason to feel down after surpassing expectations and knocking out defending champions Redfern All Blacks after a hard-fought game in the semi-finals.
In the men’s division, the Wedgetails were eliminated early after a narrow first-round loss to rivals Dubbo Pacemakers.
The men’s Wedgetails found themselves down on the losing side of an 18 – 8 lead at half-time, but fought back throughout the second half to draw the name nearly even by the end, pushing themselves to 18 – 14 before the final whistle.
While the men and women’s Wedgetails fell short of the championship this year, both sides are already looking towards the future, according to women’s Wedgetails coach Nathan Towney.
“Everyone knows the talk about the next Knockout starts as soon as that final whistle blows,” Coach Towney said.