August 26, 2013 Leave a comment
I might be biased but on Saturday I witnessed one of the toughest team performances I’ve ever witnessed or been a part of in forty years of watching and playing rugby. Our University of the Sunshine Coast Under 12s team is a rag tag mob of boys drawn from nine or so local schools. I get the privilege of being their trainer – part of a coaching team of four guys (and sometimes I wonder if the kids or the coaches have the most fun).
We’ve had a really good season. Rain meant we didn’t get a training session in before our first trial so we’ve steadily built momentum and cohesion as the season has progressed. We finished the season in second place, in the process beating every other side in the competition at least once.
But going into our knockout semi final against the third place Brothers, we knew we were in for a massive game. They’re a very successful team who have been top two for the past three years. We’d beaten them earlier in the year but they were injury depleted then. Now they were coming at us full strength.
Conversely our multi-talented boys were under siege from injury and other commitments. One was in Las Vegas for the World Hip Hop Championships. Another had a clash with the Opti-Minds Creative Challenge and couldn’t make it. Our 2nd rower with Aspergers also had to get to Opti-Minds by 10.45am – just possible with the timetable but when a spinal injury happened in the earlier game ours was delayed by 30 minutes. He would now miss the second half and the stress and change sent him into a tail spin. Another forward came down with asthma on the day of the game. One of our hookers broke his collar bone in the final opposed training drill of the season. All of a sudden our squad of 21 was reduced to 16 and a half.
Soon after kick off our other hooker came off with a badly bleeding nose. We rotated our lock into hooker and he soon had a pinched nerve in his neck. Then our fly half and captain broke his thumb. Decimated, these 12 year olds defended their line with aplomb, took two try scoring chances when they fell and competed against a side with several fresh reserves. Forwards made covering tackles on wingers, wingers cleaned out in the rucks, guys with severe injuries (we didn’t know just how severe until hours afterwards) stayed on the field and played through the pain. These kids are 12!
In the end the two brave sides couldn’t be separated. It finished 12-12 but we went through on account of our superior ladder position. Tomorrow night we play the much vaunted Matthew Flinders side in the Grand Final. No one expects us to win. We’ll see.