The Goulburn Stockmen Under 17 girls continued their stellar season this morning, with a hard-fought 22-10 win over the Gungahlin Bulls which cemented the side as Minor Premiers.
The Bulls, who are the Stockmen’s main competitors for this season’s title, fought hard and at one point had an 8-10 lead over the home side.
However, a late burst from Goulburn saw three tries added in quick succession to put any chance of an upset firmly to bed.
For coach George Gibson, the result was a relief, particularly as the Bulls are the side Goulburn is most likely to face in the semi-finals.
“They [Gungahlin] were the team that took it out last year,” Gibson said.
“This was gonna be the game [we had to win]. For ‘em to come back in the end there and get the points up [was reassuring].”
For many of the players in the Stockmen side, it is only their first or second year playing rugby, which makes their dominance all the more impressive.
The team’s success can partly be attributed to the message Gibson instilled in them early in the year, which was to enjoy their football rather than focus on results.
“I said to the girls, don’t think about winning, just go out there and have fun,” Gibson said.
“If you’re all working together, it’s all going to happen for you.”
This is a stark contrast to last year’s side, who Gibson said had the propensity to become self-destructive if a match wasn’t going their way.
Gibson is particularly pleased with the resilience shown by his side in the face of numerous injuries which have dogged the Under 17’s from the start of the year.
“Considering we started with 21 players and we’re down to 13 every game now, because of injuries and other things that have gone on, they’re actually holding it together pretty well,” Gibson said.
It is not hard to see why injuries are rife among the team. The Stockmen play hard, direct football and often put their bodies on the line in defence. This is highly effective, but can also make players vulnerable to injuries.
However, this morning’s match saw the Stockmen’s aggression pay off.
Despite an early tussle for control, which saw a number of back-and-forth tries and the lead change hands a number of times, Goulburn stepped it up in the second half.
Utlising an aggressive kicking game, Goulburn would often work their way towards the centre of the field and chip the ball forward.
Their subsequent chase heaped the pressure on the Gungahlin backs and forced a number of turnovers near the tryline.
Gungahlin’s talented forwards did enough to keep them competitive, but rock-solid defence from Goulburn meant that many of the visitors’ opportunities went unrewarded.
Next week, in the final round of the regular season, the Stockmen will take on the Yass Magpies, who were ranked third leading up to their clash against the Queanbeyan Kangaroos today.