A perfect storm of experience and youthful energy hit southern NSW over the weekend as two Central Storm sides made their debuts appearance at the Albury Thunder Women’s 9s Carnival, racking up two finals appearances.
The open-age side – chock full of Group 10 stars – were minutes away from winning the final, going down 10-4 as Yenda scored and converted on the siren, while the under 16s lost to the hosts in the semi-final.
The opens won four of their six games, while the under-16s won their first two games before falling in the semi.
Plenty of players in both outfits were playing their first game of tackle rugby, and coach Jordan Dwyer said they handled the change with aplomb.
“We had a couple of experienced girls but ‘experienced’ is a loose term. They all went very, very well,” he said.
That experienced core of Bec Ford, Ella J Harris and co-captains Jacky Lynden and Amy Hotham helped younger players and a plethora of rugby union Westfund Cup stars slot right into the side.
“We didn’t expect that at all, we hoped we’d go well but they were fantastic.”
Dwyer said the experience on the field had been great, with the highlight of the tournament a massive Tabua Tuinakauvadra fend off before running over the line for a try for the under-16s.
“That was a massive hit, it nearly put (the defender) over the fence,” Dwyer said.
Tuinakauvadra’s sister Milika was one of three 17-year-olds lining up in the opens side, and she played through a “painful” sternum injury she picked up in game two.
Fellow youngster and Orange Hawks jet Cheynoah Merchant stood out to Dywer as “my pick for player of the tournament” after an “exceptional” showing in the Storm’s six games, while Parkes product Sami Afele “absolutely killed it”.
However, Dwyer found himself listing nearly the whole squad on his quest to mention players whocaught his eye, but despite on-field success, Dwyer said the off-field camaraderie was the biggest take-away from the tournament.
The girls are “already itching for next year”, and the Storm are now on the lookout for any regional carnivals they can make it to.
The friendships and memories they made will last a lifetime and that’s what footy’s about.Jordan Dwyer
“The friendships and memories they made will last a lifetime and that’s what footy’s about,” Dwyer said.
“We’ll have a bit of a look around for other carnivals and plenty of the girls will play in Western Rugby League when that kicks off early next year.
“We’ll be back next year, hopefully with two open teams.”
Dwyer also said he’d been “blown away” by sponsor support, and wanted to thank everyone involved with helping the Storm get to Albury.
“For something this big to happen we need a lot of support,” he said.