CONFIDENCE and self-belief - they were the key factors behind a group of Saints enjoying their best ever season of Group 10 Junior Rugby League.
They first came together as under 9s at Eglinton, they made the switch to St Pat's at under 13s level and this year as under 15s they were on the cusp of their first appearance in a Group 10 JRL grand final.
While the Group JRL was abandoned due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown before the Saints had the chance to battle Mudgee in the first grand final qualifier, under 15s Blue coach Chris Osborne felt they were a hot chance of making that decider.
With the assistance of fellow experienced coaches Dave Elvy and Kurt Hancock, Osborne had seen his Saints win all but two games on the way to that qualifier.
"It is probably our best season, we only lost one game all year and that was in the first round and we had a draw at Dubbo which was my fault," Osborne said.
"At Dubbo it was 14-all and there was three minutes to go and we got a penalty in front but I said don't take it. But by the time things settled and the referee sorted things it was time, we didn't get the shot at goal and it was a draw.
"It's the best win percentage they've had since they've been a side together ... there's a core group that's been there and a couple of other kids have come along.
"They used to get towelled up, we used to get beat by 50 and 60 by Mudgee and Bloomfield, but the kids have just come on so much. This year I think we would've given it a fair shake."
As has been the case in seasons past, the Saints improved their skills throughout their 2021 campaign. But what also improved this year was their confidence and according to Osborne, that played a critical role in his side's success.
"They've gained a lot of confidence and are actually standing up for themselves. Before they used to get a bit intimidated and go into their shell, but now they are standing up for themselves ... they finally believe in themselves," he said.
"You can see everybody can pass a football and to a distance, their hands have improved. They've always been a skilful side, but now things are starting to stick.
"Like your front rowers can throw a ball 10 metres and that's handy and defence as well, I just let Hancock work on their defence this year. Hancock, he's awesome with the kids and he's stiffened our defence up this year, 100 percent."
Having finished second in the minor premiership, the Saints then beat Orange CYMS 42-2 in the major semi-final on August 14.
That's ultimately where their campaign finished, but Osborne was still happy that their last game was one which ended with smiles.
"I saw the excitement from the kids, in their body language on that Saturday towards the end of the game, so looking back it's a positive note to finish on," he said.
"They've finally got a positive feeling to finish a season rather than heads down because they've been beat and knocked out of a semi-final.
"Hopefully that puts a bit of fire in the belly for next year."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: