The Under 14 boys team, from left, Brodie Gollop, Jake Marotta, Indie Cameron, Nate Pugh, Lucas Jones, Ky Gow, Riley Butters, Nathan Tack, Sacha Murdoch and Jesse Gollop

THE Korumburra Wildcats capped off yet another successful country championships season with the Under 14 girls taking home the championship in Division 2 and the boys runners-up in Division 4.

The final country championship for the season saw the Korumburra Wildcats U14 boys and girls travel to Traralgon.

The boys’ team was made up of Brodie and Jesse Gollop, Indie Cameron, Jake Marotta, Lucas Jones, Riley Butters, Ky Gow, Sacha Murdoch, Nathan Tack and Nate Pugh. They were led by coach Rory Butters and team manager Tracey Gallop.

They had a big first day with four games scheduled. The first three games were easy wins, defeating Mansfield Eagles 37 to 24, Bairnsdale Bullets 41 to 25 and Portland Coasters 49 to 37. Unfortunately, the day finished with a loss to Rochester Tigers 49 to 37.

Day two was a mixed bag with only two games played, they came away with a win against the Terang Tornadoes 32 to 23 and a loss against the Wangaratta Warriors 37 to 29. The eight-point loss meant the boys narrowly missed out on Division 3.

Day 3 saw the boys head into the Division 4 finals series. First up in the quarter-final for the Wildcats was the Maryborough Blazers, defeating them 32 to 21.

The semi-final saw the boys take on the Wallan Panthers with an easy win 46 to 32, sending them to the grand final where they took on the Terang Tornadoes.

Having met the Terang team previously in the competition, the boys were confident but unfortunately, they couldn’t take the win. They went down in a hard-fought game, 46 to 32.

Coach Rory Butters was proud of the boys.

“They had put in an amazing effort. It was the first tournament that they actually all played together as a team and with such a short season, it was hard to get game time to practice.

“Everyone played so well as a team, which we pride ourselves on. The boys had three coaches throughout the season – Scott McKenzie, Matt Kennewell and Rory Butters – due to work commitments.

“So, consistency was hard to maintain as a team but our focus going into the weekend was all-round effort – the harder you work, the bigger the reward. I couldn’t have asked for any more from the boys – they came together as a team and worked hard. I am very proud.”

Under 14 girls

Whilst the boys couldn’t quite get that top position, the Under 14 girls grabbed it with both hands.

The girls’ team was made up of Julia Lindsay, Chloe Ogilvy, Juliet Stacey, Ruby Mewett, Heidi Nicholas, Leilani Lightowler, Megen Cooper, Ella Tharle, Natalya Cruwys and Charlotte Anthony. They were coached by Bill Jeffs with Laura Nicholas as team manager.

Having worked hard to develop their skills and game concepts, the Wildcats approached the country championships with a positive attitude but were not sure how they would go against some of the bigger associations. Reduced tournaments meant they had not had the opportunity to really test their competitiveness.

Day one saw the girls opening the championships with a good win against Macedon Ranges 43 to 4 who struggled to compete against the defensive pressure the girls applied, and this led to an easy win.

Geelong United, a tournament favourite, was up next. It was the Wildcats’ turn to face defeat, 42 to 11.

Whilst the score wasn’t great, the girls were competitive in a tough game against a very good team. They were defeated but not outclassed.

Game three was against the Wallan Panthers where they took a comfortable win, 42-25.

Day two and the girls came up against our neighbours in the Warragul Warriors with whom the girls have had many close encounters in recent years.

Despite going into this game with confidence, they could not penetrate the opposing side’s pack defence and were beaten, 34 to 11.

Next up was Wodonga Wolves and this was a great game with only a few points in it at any time.

Eventually, the girls took the win, 35 to 30, in a nail-biter with Heidi Nicholas pulling out the play of the day with a shot fake, step through for two points, giving the Wildcats the lead.

Great defence then caused a turnover resulting in more points at a crucial moment and the Wildcats winning a great game. It was a great team win. The last game for the day was against a strong Ballarat team. Ballarat Rush ran out as easy winners, 34 to 18.

This set the girls up to head into the finals campaign in Division 2. The quarter-final saw the girls take on the Sale Sonics – another team they have had many close games with over the season.

It was another close game with the scores tied at 11-11 at half time. A strong third quarter with great pressure defence saw the Wildcats gain the advantage running out winners, 36 to 23.

In the semi-final, the girls took on the Melton Thoroughbreds. The girls came out firing and took an easy win, 49 to 20.

The final challenge for the girls was another of our Gippsland neighbours, the Maffra Eagles.

The girls’ confidence was high as they had had ripper games in both their finals. The first quarter was close, but the girls ran away with the game after that.

They ended up winning 42 to 22 to take out the Division 2 grand final, with Megen Cooper shooting an impressive 17 points.

Coach Bill Jeffs was incredibly impressed with the girls.

“This was a marvellous achievement for the girls who, after a shaky start on day one, improved with each game as the championships progressed,” he said.

“It was a well-deserved win as the team combined so well as a group. They were outstanding in their defence and, despite some early losses, were totally united in their determination to do well. Congratulations to everyone involved with this special team.”