After a successful tour of New Zealand and an undefeated Country Championships, the Illawarra under 13s rugby team will turn their focus to toppling the might of the Sydney rugby clubs at the upcoming NSW State Championships in Port Stephens.
The under 13s swept through the Country Championships, finishing with four wins across the two-day competition in Armidale.
Their success was matched by the Illawarra under 12s, which featured Shoals products Alfred Coulthart and Harry McAlister, and under 14 teams, who both won their respective Country Championships.
“It was a fantastic weekend for Illawarra rugby,” under 13s manager Anthony Keyes said.
“The 12s, 13s and 14s were all undefeated champions, which was really good.”
“For our team it was just a follow on from New Zealand.
“They bonded well over there, which is exactly what it’s about, bringing the children together and relying on each other away from the everyday influences of home.
“It all translated into the trip to Armidale, the kids didn’t have it easy, they had to play their best to win.”
The victory followed an unbeaten tour of New Zealand and Keyes said it was clear the team took the lessons learnt abroad into the Country Championships.
“We had a great time in New Zealand both on and off the field. It’s the first time in a while an Illawarra team has won all their games over there.
“Everyone had a good time and it really set the team up for a good Country Championships.
“Hopefully they continue to build to the State Championships in three weeks time in Port Stephens.
“They’re playing all the Sydney teams, which will be a lot tougher.”
Competing as under 12s, the side progressed through to the semi-finals at the 2017 State Championships and with the vast majority of the team returning for this year’s tilt, Keyes is confident they can repeat the performance, if not go further.
“We’re definitely in good form, with all our players playing as a team,” he said.
“I think we’re a semi-finals team and would like to make the final.
“It depends on where we sit in the draw, but I’d like to think we can make the semi-final and push for a final.”