Written by Oliver Kay
The first duties for clubs took place on Sunday, at the official team photo day for the 2019 Under-14 Club Championship in Ballarat. As the 48 participating teams filed through to get their snaps taken, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the new Ballarat Sports & Events Centre.
As the defending champions of the girl's division, the Gold Coast Waves are treating the tournament as they would any other. Yet at the same time, remain acutely aware of the significance of becoming back-to-back champs, and are excited to put their best foot forward.
“We are keeping things pretty level headed,” said coach Anthony Petrie.
“We have three players back from last year’s team, so it’s a new group and so there are different expectations. But like every team here, if you don’t turn up and want to try and win it there’s really no point in coming down.”
Although mostly a new group, the Waves' players from last year’s title run bring invaluable experience to the table and have all stepped up as the leaders of the new group.
“We had some wonderful leaders in our team last year and it taught those [three] girls a lot as well. They’ve been able to pass that on to the others, just what to expect on a game to game basis,” said Petrie.
The Kilsyth Cobras boys team are coming into the tournament with a point to prove. As the hosts of the 2018 Under-14 National Club Championship, the Cobras qualified as a wild-card entrants. This year, however, they qualified the old fashion way and are eager to show they belong.
“I think the boys are probably embracing it more, the nerves are probably not there as much as they were last year. I think they are a stronger side this year which helps,” said assistant coach Glen Ghosn.
For Nikita Tudball, head coach of the Ballarat Rush, playing on this national stage on their home floor is an extra special feeling and one they are embracing.
“It makes us pretty proud that we are here and that we get to compete at this level. The girls are looking forward to a really good week and we want to be competitive against some of the really good teams and show them what we can do.”
For most of the teams, it has been a long trek to get to Ballarat to take part, with teams coming from every state and territory. However, few clubs are quite as isolated from the rest of the competition as the Darwin Cyclones.
As the only Northern Territory club to qualify for the tournament, the Cyclones are taking the experience in their stride, soaking in every aspect of the journey.
“We come together pretty well as a group because we have to travel to seek out that next level of competition,” said head coach of the Cyclones boys team, Ben Broadbent.
“That’s part of the excitement and the challenge that comes with it, we absolutely welcome it more than anything else.”
Travel hasn’t been the only obstacle for the Cyclones, the chilly Ballarat weather has also taken a bit of acclimatising.
“That is a challenge,” chuckled Broadbent. “It’s just part of it. And the reality is once you’re warmed up and on the court it’s game on.”
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