Action from the Under-14s match between Illawarra and New England in Grafton.
Action from the Under-14s match between Illawarra and New England in Grafton.

Far North Coast union strikes a blow

THE Far North Coast junior rugby union Under-14 team blitzed the other zones to take out the country championship in Grafton on Saturday.

They were undefeated throughout the carnival notching wins over Central West (22-0) and Newcastle-Hunter (31-5) in the pool. They accounted for Illawarra 12-0 in the semi-final and downed Hunter for a second time, 10-0, in the final.

Wollongbar winger Simon Oeding, who scored a sensational try in the final, was named as best back in the Under-14s.

Team-mates Brock Jensen, Marcus Skudder, Branston Brewer-Charles, Scott Cardow, Sam Cox, Sean Cox (Lismore), Jake Smith (Ballina) and Jason Higgins (Wollongbar) were also named in the Country squad.

Coach Terry Cox, from Lismore, who took the reins for the first time, said the boys played outstanding football.

"The Far North Coast has never won a country junior championship in any age and we did far better than any of the other zones expected," he said.

"They are a great bunch of kids," coach Cox said.

During the tournament Far North Coast scored 80 points with only seven against them.

Cox, a former Queensland Country representative player, has coached school sides for many years including St Carthage's, Lismore and St John's College, Woodlawn, taking the teams to state and silver fern titles. He said the Far North Coast's win came after many months of planning.

"Darren Winkler from Casino came on board as manager and we started planning for this in July last year," Cox said.

"We assembled a train-on squad last season and selected the final team after a possibles and probables match earlier this year."

Cox was miffed that only nine Far North Coast players made the country squad.

"We beat Hunter in a pool match and in the final but they got 12 players in the country squad," he said.

"I think the country squad was pencilled in before the championships and we threw a spanner in the works. The numbers were a bit hard to fathom."

The Under-15 team, containing Berrigan Young from Yamba, finished fifth in the championships with Tom Sandral (Wollongbar), Matthew Cardow and Michael Thomas (Lismore) selected in province teams.

Lismore's Doug Pepper won the encouragement award for his consistent play over the two days.

Last weekend at Moree Far North Coast Under-16s finished fourth in a tight battle at Moree after drawing with eventual winners Newcastle-Hunter in a pool match.

Joel Crowther, Kahliff Glass (Wollongbar), Joshua Den Elzen, Andrew Barnes (Casino), Alex Butchies, Harry Brown (Lennox Head), Bryce Speechley (Grafton) and Matthew Bouboulas (Ballina) were picked in the Country squad.

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