BATHURST’S Jakiya Whitfeld and her Australian teammates came up just short of the prize at the recent Oceania Under 18s Rugby Sevens Championships.
The Australian women scored a 17-15 win over New Zealand during the pool stage of the tournament at Sydney’s St Ignatius’ College but the visitors proved too strong in a 21-7 grand final win.
Whitfeld, 16, picked up two tries on the second day’s play including a crucial try in the victory over New Zealand.
The Bathurst player may have come up shy of the Oceania title with Australia but enjoyed the experience in her highest level of rugby representation to date.
“New Zealand are a really strong side. They’re physically a big team and fast as well. It was very challenging,” she said.
“It was my second time playing for Australia, so I wasn’t as nervous as before, and it was really good fun.”
Australia had no troubles against the competition’s third contender, Fiji, winning both pool matches with ease.
After beating the Fijians 34-0 the Australians returned just as strong the following day with a 36-0 success. Whitfeld picked up a try in the day two victory.
New Zealand ousted the Aussies 26-17 in their first clash before the women in yellow struck back in style.
Sadly the Australians couldn’t make it two wins in a row over the Kiwis.
There was plenty of effort put in by Whitfeld and Australia in the build up for the tournament.
“We have camps a couple of times a year. We hadn’t seen each other since our previous tournament in New Zealand last year. We had a week together to prepare for it,” she said.
“In the last few months we’ve been training down in Sydney twice a week. I’d been going down on Wednesday afternoons and the weekends with the NSW development group. That was to help us prepare for this.
“We train with a lot of the older girls, like those in the women’s development program, plus we’ve played some games against other women’s teams. That gets us ready for the next step.”
Whitfeld’s still has another two years left to contest under 18s before venturing into opens, demonstrating how much of an impact the Bathurst player has already made at a young age.
Sadly for Australia the final at the Oceania Under 18s Rugby Sevens Championships was also a qualifier for the Youth Olympics, and New Zealand’s win gives them the sole spot allocated for the region.
Next on the agenda for Whitfeld is the 15-a-side edition of the women’s NSW Country Championships.