There were cheers, thrills, and yes, even the occasional spill but above all the atmosphere was one of celebration as the first Touch Football NSW All Schools Finals in three years was completed in scintillating fashion on the NSW Central Coast today.
Central Coast Regional Sporting Complex was the venue and even the state’s fickle weather played ball with glorious sunshine belying what has been a wet and miserable winter for many. This ultimately allowed the several hundred players in attendance to showcase their unquestionable talents.
After three hours of skillful, fast-pace,d and enterprising play the 42 contesting teams were whittled down to just 16 semi-finalists across the 4 divisions.
Of course, an event on this scale couldn’t be run without officials, and a combination of 60 school students and accredited Touch NSW referees performed this essential task throughout the day.
The closest division in the group matches was the Year 7/8 Girls competition with three teams finishing equal on both points and in for-and-against.
In the end, it was only a complicated mathematical equation that split them which underscored the strength in this age group.
Highlighting the skills of regional NSW athletes schools representing the Wellington, Taree, Orange, and Wagga Wagga districts all made it through a tough pool stage to qualify for the second round.
They were joined in the knock-out rounds by schools from Metropolitan Sydney and the Hunter with Hunter Sports High, in particular, having cause for celebration with all four teams making the knock-out stage.
And so it all came down to one more match with the players having to brush aside aching muscles for a chance to have their school’s name recorded in perpetuity.
In the 7/8 Girls, the grand final was contested between Hunter Sports High who had accounted for St Mary’s Wellington 3-1 in the semi-final and Gilroy Catholic College who secured their place in the showpiece event with a dramatic 3-2 win over St Clares courtesy of a drop-off that got down to 3 players each.
The youngsters from Gilroy couldn’t repeat their heroics bravely going down 3-nil to Hunter to finish their tournament with a silver medal.
The 7/8 Boys final was an extremely tight affair with All Saints Maitland doing just enough to hold off a fast-finishing Kildare Catholic College 6-5. The lads from Wagga Wagga can be satisfied with their day’s work including knocking off Hunter Sports High in the semi-final to deny the sporting behemoth a place in every final.
Close finishes were a recurring theme in the final matches of the day and the 9/10 Girls event was no exception. It was a clash of two sporting-focused high schools with Hills Sport taking on Hunter Sports High in a meeting of the double H’s! Both teams were evenly matched having qualified for the final on the back of comprehensive wins in the semi. Hunter took down James Sheahan 5-2, and Hills beat Kildare 4-0.
The final was extremely tight with chances few and far between. Ultimately it was a single score difference with Hunter doing enough to win the state championship 2-1.
It was the 9/10 Boys who rounded out the competition with Hunter Sports and Kildare-worthy opponents. Kildare had been in great form throughout the day with a 5-4 win in the semi-final over Narrabeen Sports High giving them confidence heading into the final match.
If Kildare’s form was great, Hunters was next level. The boys from Newcastle put on 8 tries in a semi-final victory over James Sheahan.
Ultimately it was a display of ruthlessness they would see Hunter crowned champions notching 5 tries to one in a comprehensive victory.
Game Development Officer Deacon Cameron was thrilled with a successful event.
“This was Touch Football at its finest and it was a fantastic day with all the schools involved having a great day.
“It was fantastic to see the skills on display with all games played in the right spirit,” Mr Cameron said.
State Participation Manager Rob Pidgeon felt the event underscored the growing popularity of Touch Football within the NSW School System.
“Despite an absence of over 1000 days, it was clear that the skills of our young footballers have not diminished.
“Touch Football NSW is delighted to give an opportunity for the very best school players to come together and play in a fun but competitive environment,” Mr Pidgeon said.
“I would like to thank all the competitors, officials, supporters, and teachers. It was a wonderful day and we look forward to doing it all again at the 2023 NSW All Schools Finals.”
2022 NSW All Schools Grand Final Results:
Division 7/8 Girls
Hunter Sports High 3 def Gilroy Catholic College 0
Division 7/8 Boys
All Saints Maitland 6 def Kildare Catholic College 5
Division 9/10 Girls
Hunter Sports High 2 def Hills Sport High 1
Division 9/10 Boys
Hunter Sports High 5 def Kildare Catholic College 1