Waratahs at NSW PSSA Rugby Championship 2019
The Western Sydney University Richmond Campus played host to three great days of junior rugby as it hosted the NSW PSSA Rugby Union Championships at its College Oval from Tuesday to Thursday, August 27 to 29.
The event saw the state's top 11 and 12-year-old players descend on Hawkesbury Ag's home field to compete in some memorable matches.
There were more than 200 players competing in 13 teams from across the state. The competition featured mainly boys but there were five or six girls selected as well.
Day one featured pool matches with day two entering finals as teams played off for the semi-finals. Day three comprised of the final matches, with teams playing for rankings from first to eighth and below.
In attendance all week was Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson, who ran coaches through a training course on Monday, then followed that up by spending some time in team huddles across the Tuesday and Wednesday.
He was also there supporting his sons who were competing in the tournament.
Gibson was joined by different members of the Waratahs staff who were out of the office and enjoyed watching the future of rugby in NSW.
Waratahs and NSW Country Eagles player Tom Staniforth was down at the university on Wednesday morning, running water and giving half time pep talks to teams.
He was impressed at the level of play that he was watching.
"I couldn't do some of what these guys are doing when I was their age," he said.
"I think it is very impressive for primary school kids to be able to do some of these skills.
"Some of them are throwing out the back offloads with really good passing and really good tackling. It's just really impressive to see.
"It's really good to see lots of kids out playing. There are heaps of development staff out today and heaps of kids wanting to play, and lots of teams trying to compete to win.
"It's really cool to see so many kids playing and parents supporting them."
Staniforth, along with the rest of the Waratahs squad, travel around to different events helping to grow grassroots rugby.
"We all do days like this where we go out to the community and try to get involved with the grassroots. I think it is really cool to come out and see kids playing and remind yourself of similar tournaments that you played growing up.
"I just think kids should play as much sport as they can. At the end of the day it's under 12's and when I was growing up I just wanted to play as much sport as I could in every single sport that I could.
"As long as the kids are enjoying it and are having fun with it then that's the main thing."
He thinks that the best way to keep the kids in the sport as they get older is to maintain the fun they were having throughout that week.
"Making it fun," said Staniforth. "Having running rugby and days like this where kids can play three, four, five games in a day is really important.
"It gives them the opportunity to play hang out with their mates and play the game."
The top four emerged early on with Sydney North, Sydney West, Catholic Independent Schools (CIS) and Sydney East advancing to the semi-finals.
This year saw a large shift in the top teams as the top four comprised of three teams made up of public schools.
It also marked the first time since 2006 a public school team won the competition, in Sydney North
They played brilliantly all tournament, providing some of the best highlights. It seemed like the whole team couldn't miss a tackle.
When they got the ball they would spread it wide and let their backs loose. Their wingers and fullback could step and out run everyone.
The team's play was met with great praise from all the PSSA coaches and Waratahs staff.
Sydney North defeated CIS 33-0 in the final.
Sydney West break top four in PSSA
Sydney West was the host team for this year and featured a variety of students from across the Sydney West zone, including players from the Hawkesbury, Hills, Blacktown and Penrith regions.
They played in a pool with North Coast and Sydney East, whom they would see on the first day.
They started off the competition well with a dominant performance over North Coast winning 43 - 7, quickly becoming one of the tournament favourites.
But they were unable to recreate their performance in the second match. Despite scoring first, Sydney East were able to quickly run away with a victory, 31 - 7. They came second in the pool overall.
On day two, Sydney West would play in what became known as the game of the week.
They faced MacKillop, who had topped their own table with three dominant performances.
Looking to bounce back to their play of the prior morning, Sydney West came out all guns blazing and crossed for the opening try early in the match. By half time it was deadlocked at 12-all.
The young players had Waratahs staff, including head coach Daryl Gibson and player Tom Staniforth, gobsmacked by what they were watching.
Mackillop got away from Sydney West early in the second half going for two quick tries from two amazing cut passes from the fly half.
But Sydney West didn't rule themselves out. Using their size and strength the young side pushed the ball through the middle of the field. One, two, one, two.
They moved the ball left and broke away from the defence, crossing for an amazing try, 19-26, bringing the game back within reach.
MacKillop kicked off wanting to regain possession but Sydney West were getting fired up. Again they used their big players up the middle of the field barging through the defence.
MacKillop were determined, and despite a beautiful wrap play in the middle of the field which saw the Sydney West winger get put away for a sure try, the MacKillop fullback got across to him and brought him down.
The ball was recycled quickly and shifted right before being spread left again.
This time there was no opening, so the little back decided to put his head down and drive through the defence.
Pumping his legs and with help from his forwards, he was over, 24-26.
The Sydney West kicker lined up. About 15 metres back, 10 from the centre. Everyone on the sideline held their breath.
He connected, and immediately everyone knew it was sailing over the black dot.
Unfortunately for MacKillop, the match was ruled a win for Sydney West, as they scored the first points.
But they were all proud after receiving praise from not only their coaches and family, but from the Waratahs and all the members of the NSW PSSA.
It was immediately dubbed the game of the week and both sides knew it.
Sydney West advanced to the semi-finals where they would face Sydney North, who defeated them 52-14.
The following day they played off for third place, once again comping up against Sydney East who won 24-5.
Sydney West head coach John Carters said that he was proud of the performance of not only his team but every team across the three days.
"It's what rugby is all about," he said. "From a school's point of view this is great. Having over 200 students come from all around given the opportunity to play rugby is fantastic. For the Sydney West kids it is great to bring them all together to forming really good friendships and that is really good to see.
"As for where we are, the Hawkesbury Agricultural College is a great location as well. It is great to have the connect with Sydney West, especially the rural side of Sydney West as well.
Mr Carter saw an immediate improvement in his young players very early in the team's formation.
"Each time they have gotten together they have improved individually and as a team. They have definitely developed as players but it's all about creating friendships and having a life long experience that they'll remember."