Nice Girls and Now a Threat
At the NSW 2011 State Cup the guide had rated the VIC girls as “nice girls but not a threat”. This quote stuck with the girls and quickly inspired them to better results. It worked, with the girls knocking off some good teams to find themselves in the quarter finals. This result was only a taste of what was to follow. The movie “the mighty ducks” comes to mind when describing the performance of the girls at Nationals. Playing in what was considered the harder pool, fielding 10 first timers to Opens NTL’s including 15 year old Taylor Mason as the youngest and 37 year old mother of 2 Jamie Te Pania as their eldest. The scene was set. The girls played the Sydney Mets in round 1 and were in the game till the last few minutes when the Mets ran away with a few late touchdowns to win 10-5. The girls confidence was high though knowing that in 2010 the Mets had beat them 17-2. From that game on they never looked back. They drew to eventual runners up South West QLD 7-7 only just missing out on the win late in the game. They convincingly beat the QLD Bulls 10-7 before causing one of the upsets of the tournament beating the highly fancied South QLD Sharks 9-5. The game was tight but the girls fitness work had paid off as they ran on top of their more experienced rivals in the final 10 minutes. This had people turning their heads and asking…”who are these girls?”. Round 5 was another good win against the Hornets 10-7 where again the girl’s fitness helped them push away. Round 6 was a convincing win against defense which helped seal that quarter final spot for the women’s team for the first time in VIC Opens touch History. Round 7 was a last minute 8-7 win against the Northern eagles placing the team second on the ladder after the round games.
The quarter final the VIC women’s played will go down as one of the best games you will see at Nationals. Victoria came up against the Sunshine Coast who like most teams were highly fancied to easily beat the Victorians. It looked to go that way when the Queenslanders took a 9-6 lead with 6 minutes to go in the game. Captain/Coach Leah Percy and Coach El Chaar urged the girls to play the game out to the buzzer. They responded as they had throughout the competition. Victorian star Leah Percy who was battling extreme pain due to an accidental knee to the hip earlier set up a touchdown for youngster Taylor Mason to bring the score that little bit closer. The game was getting away until a last play, no option pass to a hole hitting Bree Watkins saw her swerve through 3 defenders to score a runaway touchdown to bring the game back to one with 2 minutes to go. The girls defended the set then found some extra energy to ruck the ball from their line to gain a penalty at half way. With under a minute on the clock remaining Percy showed good composure to get the ball to the line and direct play. Percy came off a sweeper play and began diving at the line looking for the equalizer. As the defense looked to shut her down she amazingly through a pass as she was diving to the wing of Taylor Mason who threw herself onto the ball to score as the siren sounded in the background. The girls had somehow forced the game into a drop off much to the Victorian crowds delight as they chanted “We love you cause your Victorian”.
The drop off team of Jeffress, Breeze, Mason, Frizzell and Percy were given the play to run by Coach El Chaar. Score then defend were the words given. On touch four the play was on for Percy and the reliable sweeper player. Percy showed no care for her battered body as she dived for the line off the sweeper to score and put the girls up for the first time in the game. The girls would defend the final set to win and send the Victorian crowd into frenzy. An unforgettable victory with the girls scoring 4 touchdowns in 7 minutes to win 10-9.
The girls would then need to back this up the next morning to play the Cobras on the stadium field. The experience, speed and flare was just too much for this Victorian team in the end bowing out one game short of making the NTL grand final losing 12-5. A fantastic and very memorable tournament for the girls. The girls really proved this reporter wrong with the Big V Reporter predicting a 9th place finish for the girls.
The best for the women’s team based on player’s player results were 1st Leah Percy, 2nd Toni Breeze, 3rd Caitlyn Jeffress and 4th Taylor Mason.
Leah Percy had a standout competition scoring a massive 19 touchdowns in the tournament as well as winning the Player of the Series award. Her performance caught the eye of Australian Women’s Coach Peter Bell who was quick to bring her up from the Mixed Opens to his Australian Women’s Open squad for the upcoming Trans-Tasman series. A loss for the Mixed and a massive gain for the Women’s we say. Her inclusion in the Women’s Open squad is another first for Victoria having never had an Australian Opens representative. Congratulations Leah Percy.
Other notable mentions are to our youngest and oldest stars. Taylor Mason at 15 years old scored a massive 16 touchdowns in her debut tournament. The old record for touchdowns at Nationals was 13 back in 2009. Congratulations Taylor Mason.
Jamie TePania will be representing New Zealand at the 2013 Masters Trans-Tasman series after catching the eyes of New Zealand selectors with her impressive performances. She has made the New Zealand Women’s 30s team for that series. Congratulations Jamie.
Congrats also to the Victorian senior mixed team who survived a late comeback in their final to win the competition.
Victoria is now on the map and will continuously look for opportunities to get better. Look out NSW & QLD.
THE BIG V REPORTER