Hunter Western Hornets touch footballers reach Grand Finals at National Youth Championships

Outstanding Nelson Bay touch football prospects Mia McDonald, Maddie Baxter, Maebel Colley and Kylah Rankin starred in the Hornet’s 6-3 loss to South Queensland Sharks in the National Youth Under 12 Girls Championship decider.

NELSON BAY’S emerging crop of touch football talent are the toast of the region after stand out performances at this year’s National Youth Championships on the Sunshine Coast.

Mixing it with the best junior players across the nation, the Hunter Western Hornets underlined their depth of skill by reaching two Grand Finals and making three semi final appearances at the prestigious Carnival.

Both the Under 12 Girls and Boys combinations produced superb displays to book Grand Final berths while the Under 14 Boys and Girls along with the Under 16 Boys secured finals spots with a string of impressive victories.

Experienced Hornets mentor and NSW representative player Nicole Mitchell told News Of The Area that the Hunter region was “rich in junior touch football talent”.

“We were very competitive across the board and held our own against strong opposition which augurs well for the future,” a delighted Nicole exclaimed.

“To reach the finals in four of the eight competitions is testimony of the quality coaching and pathways established for up-and-coming players in the region,” she added.

Exciting Nelson Bay prospects Mia McDonald, Maddie Baxter, Maebel Colley and Kylah Rankin shone in the Hornet’s 6-3 loss to South Queensland Sharks in the Under 12 Girls trophy decider.

Outstanding winger McDonald, who was named in this year’s NSW Touch 12yrs Merit Team, showed her wares as the Liz Channon-coached Hornets defeated Brisbane Cobras (6-0), South West Queensland Swans (6-5), Central Queensland Bulls (10-2), Sharks B (7-1) and Southern Suns (4-2) and drew 2-all with Northern Eagles to finish second in their Pool.

The Hunter girls downed Sydney Scorpions 5-1 in a semi final before pushing the Sharks all the way in an epic final.

Wallsend link Tarek Houcher and middle Tyler Johnson steered the Hornets Under 12 Boys to a championship decider against Sydney Scorpions before succumbing 7-5.

The Dylan Thompson coached Hunter side were also pipped by the Scorpions (6-5) in the Pool rounds after registering emphatic victories over Sunshine Coast Pineapples (12-5), Cobras (13-2), North Queensland Cyclones B (14-3), Cyclones (14-2) and Swans (6-2) and toppling the Sharks (9-7) in a semi final.

NSW Combined High Schools – featuring classy Nelson Bay middles Ava Forster and Alice Mitchell and Hunter Sports High link Anika McCarthy and winger Ava Simpson – finished runners up in the Under 18 Girls Division.

Queensland Secondary Schools were crowned champions after blitzing the Blues 6-1.

Forster and Simpson (18yrs) and Mitchell and McCarthy (16yrs) were all named in this year’s NSW Touch Girls Merit Squad and were instrumental in the Blues’ 9-2 semi final triumph over the Scorpions.

Talented Nelson Bay Neptunes siblings Lexi Manning and Bowey Manning made an impact as the Hornets’ Under 14 Girls team roared into the finals.

Elusive winger Lexi, a NSW Touch Merit Squad inductee, led the way as the Tom Taylor coached Hornets posted wins over the Pineapples (7-1), Cobras (8-6), Bulls B (12-2), Tasmania Thunder (14-0), Bulls (5-4) and Cyclones B (10-0) and 3-all draw with Sharks.

Sydney Scorpions edged out Hunter 4-3 in a semi final before crashing 8-3 to the Sharks in the Grand Final.

Steven Hepburn’s Under 14 Hunter boys clinched a top four ranking after qualifying for the finals.

Led by NSW Touch Merit Squad young guns in winger Caleb Lewis, links Riley Barnes and Jack Allen and middles Rico Elers and Tukia Fotu-Moala the Hornets topped their Pool with victories over Sharks B (16-8), Bulls B (13-1), Cyclones B (14-2), Eagles (14-5) and Scorpions (7-3) before bowing out 6-2 to the Sharks in a semi final – their only loss at the Carnival.

Brisbane Cobras were crowned champions after toppling the Sharks 9-5 in the final.

Rob White’s Hunter Under 16 Boys were pipped 10-9 by the Scorpions in a pulsating semi final after earlier notching wins over the Eagles (13-1), Cobras (9-5), Cyclones (10-6), Thunder (16-4) and Western Australia Tigers (19-3).

They suffered a first-up 6-3 loss to the championship winning Sharks and were best served by NSW Touch Merit Squad prospects in link Jaylan Bishop, winger Noah Carlson, middles Jordie Harris and Kale White and utility Nate Simpson.

Mitch Walkaden’s Under 16 Hunter Girls finished eighth with top displays from Nelson Bay utility Breanna Rawlins, Latesha West and winger Millie Barnes while Lindsay Brain’s Under 18 Hunter Boys came ninth.

Natalie Little’s Under 18 Hunter Girls finished sixth with strong contributions from Nelson Bay’s Emma Dawson and Estelle Nichols.

By Chris KARAS

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