THEY might have started out as a group of individuals, but as the Group 10 Junior Rugby League season unfolded the St Pat's Blue under 12s evolved into a cohesive unit that sprung an upset.
Like all other Group 10 JRL teams which had qualified for the second week of finals, the Michael Clarke coached Saints were disappointed late last week when receiving the news that the remainder of the season had been abandoned due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.
Clarke had been confident his young Saints, who finished the regular season in fifth, could pull off another finals upset had play gone ahead. They'd already avoided elimination once by defeating the more highly fancied Bloomfield 18-10 in the elimination semi-final on August 14.
"Honestly from the first game up until beating Bloomfield I'd seen a massive improvement, every single week at training, every single game, every single time and they've just come together much closer as a group," Clarke said.
"They have just excelled and done more than people thought they could do.
"Coming into that first week of semis a lot of people thought that was the season done for us. But with the support of that other St Pat's White team, we came out and beat them."
St Pat's Blue had lost 20-16 when meeting Bloomfield earlier in the season, but headed into the finals on the back of consecutive wins.
In a tight elimination semi-final struggle against Bloomfield the Saints conceded the first try, but fought back to lead by two at half-time then went on with the job. The smiles were big and cheers loud as the final whistle blew.
"I believe in them, I had faith in them the whole season and I knew hearing that we were underdogs would give the boys a bit more excitement to beat Bloomfield," Clarke said.
"I know winning when you're an underdog is a real good feeling, so I was really proud of the boys for doing that."
That effort gave Clarke faith his under 12s could go deeper into the finals, but winning form was not the only reason he had confidence. His squad had great camaraderie too.
"Those first few games they weren't really working as a team, they were working as individuals, but by the end of the season and semis we had started to click together, work together," he said.
"In my eyes, seeing the boys after win or even a loss, seeing them come together, supporting each other is what I believed helped us during the season."
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