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TODAY X-BLADES NATIONAL 18s CHAMPIONSHIPS, TOMORROW THE WORLD


first_imgWhilst the future champions of our sport do battle on the opening day of the X Blades National 18 Years and Under Championships, the present superstars of our game recall with fondness the role playing in the National 18s tournament had in their pathway to the top. Karley Banks provides this special feature on “The Graduates” players who have risen from the 18s ranks to the highest representative levels our sport has to offer.The timid 15 year-old that got the late call up when someone pulled out because of an untimely dose of chicken pox, and really only got the nod because her sister was a fair player and someone figured that that sort of talent just HAD to run in the family, sat wide eyed, butterflies doing back flips in her stomach, waiting to be issued her playing kit for the National 18 Years tournament at Coffs Harbour.The shirt with the Number thirteen (13), the one no one wants because of the bad luck connotation, landed squarely at the feet of the young tyro from the Sunshine Coast.Our young gun didn’t really care what number she was given, reasoning that ‘A’ shirt was better than ‘no’ shirt at all, and besides, if it paid for her ticket onto the field for a thrill a minute ride that would set her on a pathway towards her goals, then # 13 was A-OK with her.Fast forward 8 or so years, and fill that interim period with what seemed like an endless round of juggling study/work/life commitments with gut busting training sessions, year round playing schedules, Mum and Dad driving you to tournaments in places you can’t even pronounce (let alone know what State they’re in!) injury rehabilitations, selection highs and lows, bonding nights, and scraping and saving for registration fees, shoes, and levy payments, and you begin to get a feel for what the journey is like for a Touch player rising through the ranks in an attempt to go from Junior prodigy to Senior success story.It’s not the road for everyone and in the tough times, the “Why do I put myself through this?” question is never far from one’s thoughts.But there, center stage on Field One at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, South Africa in January 2007, standing on the half way line and staring down at the might of the New Zealand Touch Blacks, was an all grown up Hayley Rogerson, proudly wearing a green and gold jersey with of course the number 13 emblazoned across her back… proof positive that the TFA Talent Identification system works. “Hayles” and her elder sister Peta (who is a current Australian Women’s Open World Cup representative) have risen through the ranks to be among Queensland’s and Australia’s brightest talents.  Hayley represented Sunshine Coast at her first National 18s Championships, then QSST for the next two years, and then was selected to represent Australia at the 2001 Youth World Cup in the 18 Years Mixed division.The super fit link subsequently went on to be selected in the Queensland Women’s 20s team, Australian Women’s 20s squad, the Queensland Women’s Open State of Origin Team, and eventually the TFA National Training Squad.Hayley achieved a cherished dream when she was selected in the Australian Mixed Open Team for the 2007 FIT World Cup, and views her experience at the National Youth tournaments as an integral stepping stone in her development.“When I think back to the 18s tournaments, it really doesn’t seem that long ago, time flies… I know that since then, I have been lucky enough to come through the National system and been given support and development opportunities, but it all started with those early tournaments. I am thankful to all the people who have coached, pushed, and persevered with me during my ‘internship’. Without them I would not have been able to achieve my goals. Hopefully one day I can put something back into the sport that has given me so much,” Hayley said.The National 18 Years Tournament provides a unique opportunity for all regional areas of Australia, as well as the might of the New South Wales and Queensland School systems to compete under the one umbrella in a bid to crown the best 18 Years and Under team in the nation.The event offers a mix of social and competitive experiences that have become an integral lining in the fabric of Touch Football in this Country, and more importantly a rite of passage for some of Australia’s best young players like Hayley, who have used the tournament as a springboard for their representative careers.Australia has had 16 players who have represented the nation at Youth World Cup level who have gone on to represent Australia at Open level since the inception of Youth World Cup competition in 2001.Current Australian Open superstars such as Ash Farrow, Bo De la Cruz, Anthony Ziade, Louise Winchester, Matty Tope, Rebecca Tavo, and Steve Roberts are amongst the impressive list of ‘graduates’ to make the transition from our Junior World Cup, to our Open World Cup teams.Sydney’s Matthew “Shaggy” Tope who represented NSWCHS in the National 18s Championships in 2000, and went on to be selected in the Australian 18 Years Men’s team for the 2001 YWC, has great memories of the National 18s event and is enthusiastic when quizzed on the significance of the tournament to his development as an Elite player.“The best part about playing in the National 18’s was learning about the different playing styles. I didn’t understand a lot of the philosophies on how and why players from Queensland teams played differently to New South Wales teams, let alone the Kiwi style that I had never really seen before. It helps you learn to play more of a complete game when you get exposed to players, coaches, and ideas that you’re not used to. That and the friends you make. After playing for Australia you have an understanding of what it takes to get there, so you forge some pretty good friendships with the people that you go away with, that’s something that started for me as a junior and continues to this day,” Tope said.“Topeey,” regarded as one of the hardest workers and best young thinkers on the game in the nation, credits his YWC experiences with preparing him for the next level of competition and delivering him some harsh realities on what is required to truly “make it” in the game.“Playing in the YWC in 2001, taught me a lot about how hard you have to train to prepare for these events and the sacrifices you have to make in order to do well. As a young player you take for granted your talent and sometimes tend to rely on that without going the extra mile to better yourself. At the elite level everyone is talented in their own right, so it’s the ones who put the work in that really stand out. After that tournament I wanted to be one of the players who trained hard so I could stand out. I guess it kick started any chance I had of representing at the senior level, because without putting any hard yards in, I would have never made it,” Tope said.North Queensland’s Kelly Mc Gennity is the first female player to represent Australia in the two Youth divisions (18s & 20s) at successive Youth World Cups then graduate to Open World Cup representative level. Troy Malcolm is the first male.Kelly starred for Australia at the Federation of International Touch (FIT) 18 Years Youth World Cup in New Zealand in 2001 in the 18 Years Girls, the FIT 20 Years Youth World Cup at Kawana in the 20 Years Girls in 2005, and the FIT World Cup in the Mixed Open division in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2007.Mc Gennity, who captained the QSST Open Girls team, and the North Queensland 18 Years girls team, is adamant that the National 18 Years tournament has been a key stepping stone in her rise and rise in the sport she is passionate about.The impressive playmaker was the Player of the Series in Australia’s World Cup winning 2005 20 Years Women’s team.“Playing in the Youth World Cups were great experiences, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The Youth World Cup prepares you for open level in a big way. The rivalry between Australia and New Zealand has, and always will be, so intense and the speed of the games are just phenomenal,” Kelly said.“I think the Youth World Cup helps you realise the importance of playing for your country and representing the many young players out there that strive to be in the same position. To come out on top and win is a huge bonus. It’s a great honour to play in the Youth World Cup and to be fortunate enough to go onto the next level and play in the Open competition, is just sensational. It really opens up your eyes and makes you realise why you play the sport and why you put so much time and effort into developing your skills,” Kelly added.For the Sunshine Coast’s Benny Roberts who along with teammate Ash Farrow represented Australia in the 18 Years Boys division at the 2001 YWC, then went on to represent Australia at Open level in the 2007 FIT World Cup in South Africa, playing in the National 18s tournament provided benefits on a number of fronts. “The best part of playing in the National 18’s was being able to really show the rest of Australia that the Sunny Coast had talent, and it’s not just in the traditional touch football strongholds like Sydney, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast. To be able to be selected in Aussie Youth teams exposed me to better coaching and gave me the opportunity to see how different Countries approach the game – the way New Zealand play is much different to us and it was a bit if an eye opener for sure,” Benny said.The National Youth Championships have also allowed elite Coaches to develop and progress along a career pathway with mentors such as 2007 World Cup Australian Open Assistant Coaches Peter Robinson (Men’s Open) and Karley Banks (Mixed Open) having the opportunity to be a part of coaching teams at Youth World Cup level, then Open level, after cutting their teeth in the National 18s tournament.Current Australian Women’s Open Coach Kerry Norman led the Australian Women’s 20s’ Youth World Cup Team to a World title in 2001, she then assistant coached the Australian Women’s Open Team at the 2003 World Cup, before finally guiding the 2007 Australian Women’s Open Team to World Cup glory in South Africa.Australia’s most successful coach at World Cup level Peter Bell, who coached the Australian Women’s Open team to three successful World Cup campaigns between 1995-2003, is now giving the benefit of his knowledge and expertise to a new generation of up and coming players by assuming the coaching reigns of the Australian 18 Years Girls Youth World Cup campaign for 2009.Current Youth World Cup coaches Kathy O’Brien, Dean Russell, Michael Mc Donald, and National Assistant Coaches John Singh, Simon Hausler, Pete Shefford, Jacky Patrick, Danny Goodwin, Ricky Luland, Wade Jenkins, Nick Smith, and Steve Hughes have all coached in the National 18s Championships.In 2007 a new breed of players will take to the fields at the Coffs Harbour cauldron, some keen to establish themselves as the real deal, some just their to have fun and enjoy the ride, whilst others will have dreams of one day playing for Australia echoing through their heads.Keep your eye on the rookie kids wearing the unfashionable number 13 jersey, they may not be “all that” today, but as Hayley Rogerson will tell you, given the right amount of guidance, support, belief, and encouragement, dreams can come true.THE “GRADUATES” HONOUR ROLLPlayers who have represented Australia at Youth and Open World Cup LevelCLASS OF 2001Anthony Ziade (Men’s 20’s)Ash Farrow (Boys 18’s)Ben Roberts (Boys 18’s)Bo De La Cruz (Women’s 20’s)Brad Holden (Men’s 20’s)Hayley Rogerson (Mixed 18’s)Kelly McGennity (Girls 18’s)Louise Winchester (Women’s 20’s)Matt Tope (Boys 18’s)Troy Malcolm (Boys 18s) Rebecca Tavo (Mixed 18’s)Stacey Lapham (Women’s 20’s)Steve Roberts (Men’s 20’s)CLASS OF 2005Andrew Baggio (Men’s 20’s)Troy Malcolm (Men’s 20s)Claire Winchester (Women’s 20’s)Kelly McGennity (Women’s 20’s)Roxy Winder (Women’s 20’s)last_img

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