PLAYING 'the game of their lives' - that is how Bathurst Panthers under 11s league tag coach Jess Hotham will remember what her team did to finish season 2021.
After scrapping into the Group 10 Junior Rugby League league tag finals series in fifth position, Hotham's young Panthers then managed to upset their Orange CYMS White rivals.
The Orange side had defeated the Panthers by six points earlier in the year, but when faced with elimination the girls in black produced their best.
While the extended COVID-19 lockdown forced the remainder of the finals series to be abandoned, Hotham said finishing with such a performance was a positive.
"They went over to Cowra for the first week of finals and they absolutely blitzed it, they had the game of their lives," she said.
"They were obviously saving it for finals," she added with a laugh.
"They just played their little bums off and the way they cheered at the end, they were so excited. The joy that they got out of it was just so good.
"It was sort of bitter-sweet that they didn't get to finish the year off. But they finished it off well in their eyes I think.
"They were so excited just to be in the finals. It's nice they finished on that high."
While many of the Panthers had the experience of playing in under 11s the previous season, Hotham still faced challenges.
Not only did she still have one of the younger squads in the competition, but one of the biggest.
"I pretty much had that same side last year, but last year they were only nine and this year they were 10, so they are still an age group lower, they've been playing above their age," she said.
"This year we had a few new girls too, we had enough for two teams but were only playing one game each week."
Though the large numbers meant each player essentially only got half a game each Sunday, Hotham said the way they all supported each other when standing on the sideline was impressive.
"They went on did their quarter, came off and the next girls went on and they cheered them when they went on. The whole thing, even though the subbing was hard, it was great to see they all got around it," she said.
"They were just a really good group of girls who were happy to be there."
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