The results of the tournament were as follows:
Pool A Games Pool B Games
Hunter 24 v Illawarra 7 Mid-North Coast 21 Defeated Central West 13
Illawarra 20 defeated Far North Coast 7 Central West 19 defeated Central North 0
Hunter 50 defeated Far North Coast 5 Mid-North Coast 21 defeated Central North 10
Semi-Final Playoff for 3rd and 4th
Illawarra 13 defeated Mid North Coast 3 Mid North Coast 18 defeated Central West 15
Hunter 29 defeated Central West 3
Hunter 21 defeated Illawarra 7
After a disappointing performance at the NSW Country Championships in Gosford in 2017, where we failed to progress out of our pool after losing all of our games, the 2018 side turned things around and performed strongly at this year’s NSW Country Championships at Crescent Head. We eventually lost to a very strong Hunter/Newcastle side in a very competitive Grand Final. Illawarra’s captain and No.8, Harvey Austin, was awarded the Best Forward at the tournament.
We origjnally had five players selected for the NSW Country Opens’ side: Blake Curls (Kiama), Cooper Hansen (University), Tremane Malafu (Avondale), Harvey Austin (Kiama) and Blake Gurney (Shoalhaven). Tuakana Rangihaeata (University) has since been brought into the Country squad to replace the fullback who chose to play school representative rugby instead.
It should be noted that apart from the addition of Kyle Wassan (Campbelltown) and Tuakana Rangihaeata (University), the squad was made up entirely of players who had played for Illawarra in 2017 at the Under 16 or the Opens (Under 18) levels. The critical difference between this year’s campaign and last year’s result is that all Under 18 players trained under the umbrella of the senior and colts’ representative program for duration of the season rather than as a separate program. As such, the squad not only had access to specialist senior coaches, support staff and senior players, but also the opportunity to develop combinations with each other over.
The squad trained together with the Illawarra Colts (Under 19s) under the guidance of the Colts’ and Senior Illawarriors’ coaches. They worked closely with myself and Joey Aiono (U/19s) and Shaun McCreedy and Brendan Schoupp (Seniors) in particular. There was also strong consistency in coaching with Joey Aiono (the Under 19 backs’ coach) appointed as head coach of the Illawarra Under 18 side and assisted by Daryl Blocka Thomas as the Forwards’ coach, and manager, Jarrod Fritsch.