Hills Hornets has once again exceeded their previous best performance at a Junior State Cup.
The Hornets came 2nd in the 2021 Southern Conference Club Championship, eclipsing the previous best of 4th only 12 months ago.
There were great performances across all the divisions, but the highlight was shared between the Under 18 Girls and Under 14 Girls teams – both were crowned Southern Conference Champions in their respective divisions.
U14 Girls Domination
Of all the Hornets teams, the 14 Girls seemed most destined to be champions. The same team of girls exited in the Semi Finals last year, and this year was about redemption. They won all 5 of their round games, conceding one try while scoring 46. They breezed past Wollongong 6 tries to 1 in the quarter final, and after a tight battle early on, got past a Tigers team full of running 7 tries to 3. The girls were never headed in the Grand Final, completely dominating their Panthers opposition to win the game 4 tries to 1.
U18 Girls in a Nail Biter
Like the Under 14 Girls, the U18 Hornets Girls were looking for some redemption, after narrowly losing the U18 Grand Final last year. The U18 Girls got through the round games undefeated, with the biggest threat coming from the Orange Thunder – who they would meet again in the Grand Final. In the finals, the Hornets got through the quarter final and semi final relatively easily beating the Parramatta Eels 10-2 and then Penrith 5-1. But the coaching staff of Monique Nolan, Abbey Papenhuyzen and Kaitlin McCaffery knew that the rematch with a talented and well coached Orange Team in the Grand Final would be much tougher.
After the Hornets led early, the lead changed multiple times in an exciting and nail biting affair. The final score would end up 5 tries a piece, but Hornets being first try scorers meant they would be declared winners, and Under 18 Girls champions.
Under 12 Girls
The Under 12 Girls were unlucky to narrowly go down in their grand final. After scoring first and leading for most of the game, a runaway try with 3 minutes to go edged the Sharks in front.
Led by Shah Wakely, the girls showed incredible courage to keep fighting to the very end. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite get there. But there is no doubt that under the superb coaching of Manu Wakely, these girls will be back bigger and better next year, and ready to go one better.
Valiant Under 14 boys
The under 14 Boys faced off against the Penrith Panthers in their Grand Final. They were unlucky not to be awarded a try through a Riley Davis low dive early in the game. Logan Tolar then got through from dummy half, but was denied once again by good Penrith scrambling defence. It seemed only a matter of time before the Hornets would break the game open. However it was the Panthers who were first to score a somewhat lucky try through some broken play. The Panthers were able to consolidate the lead a few minutes later. The Hornets led by Lincoln Fletcher and Taj “Paka” Paterson tried valiantly to close the deficit, but eventually went down 4 tries to 2.
President Brad Mitchell was overjoyed by the results that the club achieved but not surprised.
“I’ve seen the work that has been put into this campaign by the players who are led arguably by some of the best coaches in the game. Our off field setup for this tournament included a recovery centre led by Sports Scientist Michael Donaghy from Athletes Collective and Ben Black from Lexington Physio.” said Mitchell
“When you start with talented young athletes and expose them to excellent coaching and cutting edge technologies off the field, sooner or later success follows.”
So what’s next for the Hornets?
“As a club we are always trying to evolve. This year we finished a close second behind Penrith in the Club Championship. That’s added a bit more fuel to the fire that drives us towards success.”
“And evolving means more than just getting the best out of players. It also means we have the support mechanisms in place to be successful. This year we appointed Lucinda Wehrle as the club’s referee coordinator – Lou is doing an incredible job in developing the ranks of all our referees.”
“None of this is possible without the tireless work of the volunteers who devote hours of their time to the club. The list is large and growing, and there too many to name them all, but I do have to call out the efforts of Kat McIlwraith. Kat is the heartbeat of the club. The work she does is way beyond the call of duty.”