It’s official: Queensland Schools can once again claim bragging rights over the other ‘non-traditional’ AFL states and territories.
On Sunday afternoon, Palm Beach-Currumbin SHS claimed back-to-back Northern States Cups at the home of the GWS Giants in Blacktown, Sydney, in the most exciting of circumstances.
An initiative of the AFL, AFLQ, AFLNT and AFLNSW/ACT, the championships were held in Western Sydney from 16th – 18th September and were contested by PBC (Gold Coast, QLD), Mater Dei Catholic College (Wagga, NSW), Knox Grammar (Sydney, NSW) and Dripstone Middle School (Darwin, NT).
After dominating the qualifying matches on the Friday at Bruce Purser Oval, the home of the East Coast Eagles, the opposing schools could only manage a collective 9 points against the rampaging PBC ‘Reds’ in their three matches. PBC looked certain to retain the trophy for a second year.
A hot, dry and extremely gusty day at Blacktown Olympic Park greeted the boys Sunday for the finals series. An entertaining consolation final curtain raiser between Dripstone and Knox was fought right down to the last quarter, with Dripstone emerging winners by three goals.
With the wind increasing and blowing directly from goal post to goal post, there would be a clear advantage to the team kicking with the wind each quarter in the grand final, to be contested by Mater Dei and PBC.
An interesting move by the Wagga team was employed early, as they warmed up outside the venue away from the imposing sight of the PBC ‘Reds’ and spectators’ eyes, then ran on with minutes to spare.
This proved a great tactic for Mater Dei, who seemingly looked a rejuvenated team, and after PBC scored an early goal, took control of the first half keeping the Gold Coast boys scoreless from that point. Missing key player Ethan Reeves, it was a rattled PBC who entered the change rooms with Coach Peter Hill and support staff at half time and needed to change tactics and dig really deep to get back in the game, trailing their New South Wales opponents 4.3.27 to 1.0.6.
Kicking with the increasingly strong wind in the third, it was their sole change to use the advantage – which they did. With some positional switching, PBC held Mater Dei scoreless and piled on 4.3 by the end of the third quarter to lead by a solitary goal, 5.3.33 to 4.3.27. Big #21 Kurt Skuse, PBC’s eventual Player of the Championships, was outstanding at centre half forward and used his height to his full advantage around the ground.
The wind had not died down for the last quarter providing a huge challenge for PBC to stop Mater Dei from using this advantage. In what was described by the onlooking AFL National Schools Manager, Mark Riddiford, as the ‘best game of footy in Northern States Cup history’, a classic tussle began in the last quarter with possession being turned over constantly. With seven minutes left, Mater Dei kicked a goal to level the scores, pushing PBC to fight harder than they had had to all competition.
In a seemingly hopeless battle against the wind, the Palm Beach boys managed to break the Mater Dei zone and #10 Curtis Marsden ran the ball brilliantly along the wing, delivering the ball into the vacant forward fifty. In a last gasp attempt, players scrambled for the footy and rushed a behind to put PBC ahead by a point with five minutes to go.
The PBC parents who made the trip down were hoarse with cheering and willing their sons on to win. Mater Dei got the ball to their forward flank and had seemingly set up a scoring opportunity before the hard work of the PBC defence forced a turnover and provided another opportunity for Marsden to run the ball towards the PBC goals, and in a team effort against the howling wind, managed to convert, brining the crowd to their feet with two minutes left in the game.
PBC managed to keep Mater Dei from scoring again and when the siren went the celebrations rang out around the ground. It was the Queensland boys emerging victorious 6.4.40 to 5.3.33.
A very relieved PBC Coach Peter Hill gave a great speech and made mention of all the team’s fantastic improvements throughout the championships.
This is the third year in a row a Queensland school has won the Northern States Cup, with Palm Beach-Currumbin SHS now winning in 2010-11, and fellow Gold Coasters Helensvale SHS having won the cup in 2009.
In its fourth year, the Northern States Cup is a competition for U14 school boys and provides a pathway for the developing AFL schools and states. The State winners from Queensland, Northern Territory and New South Wales/ACT have traditionally met in Sydney to contest the annual competition. New South Wales, as host state, provide two teams to make up the four team qualifying and finals series. In 2012, it is hoped to hold the Northern States Cup in Queensland, providing two Queensland schools the opportunity to represent the state in this rapidly growing competition.
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NORTHERN STATES CUP SCORES:
Mater Dei 10-12 (72) def Knox 1-2 (8)
PBC 12-7 (79) def Dripstone 0-2 (2)
PBC 10-6 (66) def Mater Dei 0-0 (0)
Dripstone 9-7 (61) def Knox 4-2 (26)
Mater Dei 5-9 (39) def Dripstone 1-4 (10)
PBC 12-4 (76) def Knox 1-1 (7)
1st v 2nd
Palm Beach-Currumbin SHS 6-4 (40) def Mater Dei Catholic College 5-3 (33)
3rd v 4th
Dripstone Middle School 14-9(93) def Knox Grammar School 11-9 (75)