Victoria Junior Reps Season Review
by Tate Spiteri
The 2017 Mal Meninga Cup and FOG’s seasons wrapped up on the weekend for the U18 and U20 Victorian teams after disappointing losses to the Easts Tigers at Suzuki Stadium in Queensland.
The U18 Victorians needed an unlikely 37-point win to make it through to the finals but ended up being handed a 36-point loss.
The Victorians fought back from an early 12-0 Tigers lead to go to Half Time just 12-10 down but the flood gates opened in the second half. The Tigers piled on six second half tries to none, ending the Victorians otherwise promising season on a sour note.
The U18s finished their season with an even 3-3 ledger that included wins against the finals bound Western Mustangs and 6th placed CQ Capras.
Given there were 9 players playing in the Victorian U20 team that could have played in the U18s the effort from the young Victorians was quite impressive.
Pathways and Coaching Manager Ryan Walker said the makeup of the team was of mostly 17-year-olds with a couple of 16-year-olds as well.
“Getting some game time into those guys will hold us in a good position for 2018.” he said
The U20 Victorians had a similarly disappointing day as they went down 44-28.
The U20s entered the round still a finals hope but after the Western Mustangs easily accounted for the Ipswich Jets the day before the Victorians knew the match would be the final of their campaign.
The disappointment of missing out on the finals due to the Mustangs’ Saturday win was perhaps a factor early for Victoria as they conceded six first half tries, including three in the first twelve minutes as the Tigers opened up a 32-4 Half Time lead.
But Janan Billings’ side rallied to ensure they got something out of their final FOG’s hit out for 2017.
A try straight after Half Time to William Sila paved the way for a Victorian comeback and Jacob Cordtz soon followed suit.
The Vics would go on to end the season with one of their best halves of the season as they outscored the Tigers 24-6 to get within 10 points of the home side.
A late Zakiriah Taibi try then pushed the margin back out to 16.
The U20s outfit finished the season with two wins, a draw and 3 losses.
Interestingly, the Victorians managed to score over 20 points in every game they played apart from their opening match against Tweed Heads, showing their scoring capacity.
Upon reflection of the season the U20s will no doubt rue the missed opportunities of their round 6 draw to the Western Mustangs and their round 3 28-26 loss to the Wynumm-Manly Seagulls.
Again, Pathways and Coaching Manager Ryan Walker was optimistic with the Victorians efforts given the age of the side.
“We are quite happy with the performances of our two squads across the season”
“To win half the games is quite a solid effort” he added.
“The experience our young players got this year playing against quality opposition in Queensland will be of great benefit for our players as they continue to develop”
The Victorians are likely to become a force in the Mal Meninga Cup and FOGs competitions as the standard of Rugby League across Victoria continues to improve and existing pathways players continue to develop.