Junior rugby event hailed as a success

THE Great Southern isn’t renowned for producing star rugby players, but you wouldn’t have guessed it watching the weekend’s Junior 7s rugby tournament.

Coming up against metropolitan and country teams from around the state, Albany Storm’s under 11s side were a cut above the rest as they ended the competition cup winners.

Palmyra were crowned the under 10s cup winners, while Kalamunda took home the under 12s title.

The local rugby community would be toasting another highly successful year hosting the Albany Junior 7s tournament after more than 400 kids from 40 different teams descended upon the port city for the two-day carnival.

RugbyWA Regional Development Manager Dane Lazarus said it was a record turnout.

“It’s growing each year,” he said.

“It has been well-received. There were teams that couldn’t get accommodation in Albany this time of year, so no doubt there would have been even more.

“It will go up to the under 13 age group next year.”

Mr Lazarus said the Great Southern was an untapped gold mine for rugby talent.

“We want to make sure every kid in WA has the opportunity to play rugby and showcase their skills,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to get more kids involved in the rugby club down there in preparation for the tournament.

“I have no doubt the crop of young kids coming through, in 10 year’s time they will form the colts team and grow into a seniors team.

“It will flourish.”

Continue Reading

Kowald overcomes injury to star

SHERIDAN Kowald wasn’t even supposed to be playing in this year’s Albany Netball Association (ANA) grand final, but the Narrikup goal shooter ended up carrying her team to a famous underdog victory.

When the 21-year old tore her ACL playing footy for Mount Barker in March, participating in any kind of sport in 2020 seemed a long way away.

That fateful March day wasn’t the first time Kowald had seriously damaged her knee, either.

Less than three years earlier she had done the same injury playing netball for Lake Grace.

“It’s a weird feeling,” Kowald explained.

“There’s pain for about two minutes, you hear it snap and you can’t put weight on it.

“Then there’s no pain, but there’s no support so you can’t walk on it. You try to get up but you just fall over.”

Injuring her ACL for the second time, Kowald’s thoughts immediately turned to the long, agonising road back to recovery.

“Straight away I was in hysterics,” she said.

“I was a mess for five to six weeks just crying every day. The mental battle is really tough.”

With professional sportspeople typically taking anywhere between 9-12 months to fully recover from a torn ACL, Kowald certainly didn’t think she would be playing competitive netball in 2020.

But as the old saying goes, never write off a champion. And you get the impression the 21-year old relishes a challenge.

Determined to get back fitter and stronger than ever before, Kowald went about doing everything she could to reach full fitness in record time.

“At the six week mark I got back to running – they recommend about double that time,” she said.

“Sometimes I would do a two-hour gym session and go to netball training.”

About five months after the injury, Kowald’s Narrikup coach Lisa O’Farrell noticed the young star was moving pretty smoothly out on the court and asked whether a return date was possible.

At the time, Narrikup had lost four of their first seven games.

“Lisa came up and asked me if I wanted to set a date to play a game,” Kowald said.

“She gave me confidence. She was relying on me to lift the girls.”

Thrilled with Kowald’s progress, her surgeon gave the all clear to return to competitive sport just six months after that dark day in March.

But the 21 year-old’s physiotherapist and parents were more sceptical.

“It’s not that they didn’t support me, they were just worried about what could happen,” she said.

“I had people recommending I never go back to sport. But sport is my whole life.”

The Katanning product did however have the undying support of her Narrikup teammates.

“There were so many signs just pushing for yes, rather than no,” she said.

“The whole team support system was massive. It was a big boost.”

Making a return to the court, albeit under limited game time, Kowald immediately made an impact.

“I think I shot at 85 per cent my first game,” she said.

“It felt like a reward. It was the best feeling.”

After finishing the season in third position behind the likes of Railways and Royals Saints, who had both only lost one game all year, Narrikup looked on paper to be making up the numbers.

But with Kowald now back playing full minutes, an inspired Narrikup outfit dismantled each of their finals opponents.

Narrikup tore Royals apart in a preliminary final before spoiling Railways’ first ANA A1 Grand Final appearance with a commanding 10-point victory.

Kowald was untouchable upfront for Narrikup in the A1 decider, taking home the Lucille Holt trophy as best player of the day.

“It was pure satisfaction,” she said.

“Literally, it was so surreal. I was in the zone.

“As soon as the final whistle went in the grand final, my body was done. I had nothing left in the tank.”

What’s next for the young netball star?

She still has dreams of one day playing either football or netball at a professional level, but is very much taking it one step at a time.

“I’ve just got to perform now,” Kowald said.

“Hopefully this time next year I will be stronger than I’ve ever been.”

Continue Reading

Claremont suffer triple tragedy on WAFL’s big stage

THREE Claremont sides littered with Great Southern talent couldn’t make the most of their opportunity on the big stage as the Tigers’ colts, reserves and league teams suffered agonising grand final defeats on Sunday in the WAFL.

Not even a dominant performance from Denmark-Walpole product Kalin Lane could power Claremont’s colts side to premiership glory, with Subiaco upsetting the minor premiers by a whopping 79 points.

After leading by 14-points at the main break, Subiaco put Claremont to the sword in the second half as they piled on nine goals to run out 15.12 (102) to 6.7 (43) victors.

Lane almost played a lone hand in the ruck for the Tigers, finishing with 14 disposals, five marks and 32 hit outs.

Albany Sharks talent Kieran Gowdie was Claremont’s only multiple goal kicker with two majors, while Railways defender Jacob Blight (16 disposals) wouldn’t have lost any admirers.

It was a much tighter, lower-scoring contest in Claremont’s do-or-die final against South Fremantle in the league decider as the Bulldogs held on for a memorable three-point win in front of 10,179 fans at Fremantle Oval.

Claremont midfielder Jye Bolton (35 disposals) was awarded the Simpson Medal as best on ground, winning ahead of Bulldogs utility Zach Strom (two goals and 16 disposals).

In terms of Great Southern representatives, Declan Mountford worked hard at the coalface for Claremont to end the grand final with 16 disposals and a mammoth 12 tackles.

Jerramungup talent Tom Baldwin finished with eight possessions, while Royals’ Tyron Smallwood amassed four kicks and five tackles in their side’s 6.10 (46) to 6.7 (43) defeat.

Katanning’s Haiden Schloithe was a colossal presence in the engine room for South Fremantle as the Bulldogs held on in the final moments of a see-sawing contest to seal their first WAFL premiership since 2009.

Continue Reading

Cricket returns as Denmark demoted

FIVE teams will battle it out for premiership glory in the Great Southern’s top cricket competition this season, with Denmark officially dropping out of the 2020/21 Albany Districts Cricket Association (ADCA) A-grade competition.

The ADCA will field two A-grade games per week in a 20-round fixture, with teams taking a bye every five games.

ADCA President Terry Eaton said it was disappointing there wouldn’t be a sixth team, but that Denmark just didn’t have the top-end talent to field a competitive team.

Finishing last year rooted to the bottom of the ladder, Denmark were unable to secure a single win in 2019/20.

At the other end of the stick, Railways were crowned ADCA A-grade champions for the seventh successive season in what must be one of the most dominant runs of any team in WA cricketing history.

The Tigers clinched the premiership in bizarre circumstances after the ADCA was forced to suspend all its grand final play-offs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADCA’s executive committee unanimously decided each side that made it to the grand final first would win the flag.

With the pandemic still looming large over the world, the Western Australian Cricket Association released return to play protocols last month.

Under the protocols, players are not permitted to shine the cricket ball with saliva or sweat and any time during matches and training.

The guidelines also advise players not to share cricket equipment wherever possible and to avoid high fives and hugs after a wicket is taken.

Despite the precautions, Mr Eaton said local clubs were reporting strong numbers at pre-season training.

Apart from having to cancel last year’s grand finals fixtures, Mr Eaton said the Association was in a good position to cope with the challenges of COVID-19.

“It’s pretty well been business as usual, the clubs are reporting a good start,” he said.

“It’s looking very positive. We are ready to rock and roll.”

After a well-received first instalment, the region’s Southern Smash T20 tournament will return in December under an expanded competition.

Two extra franchises are joining this year to take part in a two-day tournament which will be played on December 28 and December 29 during the summer holidays.

Mr Eaton said some big-name Perth players would be announced in the lead up to a draft night in November.

All-rounder Julian Crudeli was last year’s No.1 selection, followed by marquee signings Luke Jury, Zain Ul Hassan and Dan Abel.

Continue Reading

Point of difference

WITH little more than a minute to go in Saturday night’s AFL elimination final, Albany-born Collingwood ruck Darcy Cameron was all that stood between Nic Naitanui and the West Coast Eagles snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

When Brody Mihocek snapped his third goal for the game at the 16-minute mark and gave the Magpies a 13-point lead, it looked like only a miracle would save the Eagles from an upset loss on their home deck.

But two quick goals to twin towers Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling then gave West Coast a chance to steal victory.

The Eagles had already scored five goals from centre clearances throughout the match, with Naitanui unstoppable in the ruck.

In an unlikely turn of events, Cameron was given more game time in the second half while first-choice big man Brodie Grundy sat on the bench.

The Collingwood coaching staff trusted Cameron to get the job done at that crucial last centre bounce, and the North Albany product didn’t disappoint.

After halving the ruck battle, Cameron got the ball to Collingwood mid-fielder Taylor Adams and the Pies went on to secure a famous victory – breaking the collective hearts of thousands of Western Australians.

Speaking to the Weekender on his return to Collingwood’s Queensland playing hub, Cameron said it was the best win of his footballing career.

“I’ve won a couple of colts grand finals, but on a big stage in a elimination final I think that takes the cake,” he said.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling when the siren went.”

As Cameron’s parents watched from the grandstands, the 25-year-old said he was feeling the pressure at that last centre bounce.

“Naitanui is a freak in those situations,” he said.

“I was very happy he didn’t climb over me and put it down either [Luke] Shuey or [Tim] Kelly’s throat.”

Returning for his first match since round 14, Cameron didn’t know he would be playing in the elimination final until the Thursday night before the game.

“I’m very thankful to the coaching staff and Bucks [Nathan Buckley] for putting faith in me at such a crucial time,” he said.

“It gives me a lot of confidence. It makes my move from Sydney justified to play in big moments like that and get the opportunity I thought I deserved.”

Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, Collingwood Coach Nathan Buckley said he didn’t plan for Cameron to spend extra time in the ruck, but decided to switch things up after Naitanui dominated Grundy in the first half.

“He [Cameron] did really well,” Buckley said.

“Not just in ruck contests but around the ground.”

Grundy only played 63 per cent of game time as speculation grows the All-Australian ruckman is carrying an injury.

With the game on the line in the final minute, Buckley said the Magpies coaching team deliberately chose Cameron to compete in the centre square.

“It was largely around Darcy’s capacity to get behind the ball,” he said.

“He’s shown that to be a real strength of his.

“We thought it was 50-50 for the ruck contest and then he could help us.”

Pundits are calling it one of the great AFL finals triumphs after Collingwood had to travel from Queensland to Perth and go through seven days of quarantine due to WA’s COVID protocols.

Heading into the elimination final, nearly every AFL tipster wrote the Pies off.

“A few of our boys say we play our best footy when everyone doesn’t back us,” Cameron said.

“It gives us a little spark of energy and a bit more want to win, because you want to prove people wrong.

“When your backs are against the wall, you like that pressure. We proved everyone wrong, which was a really nice feeling.”

Collingwood will face Geelong in a semi-final at the Gabba on Saturday night, with the winner booking themselves into a preliminary decider against Brisbane the following week.

Continue Reading

Kowald inspires Narrikup victory

NARRIKUP have tasted A1 Albany Netball Association championship glory for the first time since 2012, leading from start to finish in a high-intensity grand final encounter on Saturday afternoon.

Sheridan Kowald was the hero for Narrikup in her team’s 10-goal victory, taking home the Lucille Holt trophy as the best player of the day.

Coming off an 11-goal win over minor premiers Royals Saints four days earlier, Narrikup looked full of energy and determination from the outset as they took a four-point lead at quarter time.

After a nervy start to the game from both sides, Narrikup settled the better of the two teams, with Railways struggling to capitalise on their possession.

Despite the best efforts of Tigers defenders Hollee Siviour and Kiera Stephen, Kowald looked untouchable out on the court as she nailed shots from every angle.

It was much of the same in the second quarter, with Narrikup outscoring Railways by three goals to extend the lead to seven.

Casey Greay was playing an important support act to Kowald upfront, while Darcy Kerr was making crucial intercepts in defence.

At half-time Railways needed a lift, but couldn’t find a spark as Narrikup put their opponents to the sword.

Kowald was unstoppable as she scored goal-after-goal in the third quarter to take the margin to a game-high 15-points in the third term.

Appearing in the club’s first A1 grand final, Railways could have easily given up in the final quarter, but to their credit battled it out to the end.

Narrikup were the more clinical in front of goal when it mattered most, with jubilant scenes erupting at the final whistle as the day’s underdogs secured a 44-34 triumph and their first A1 championship in eight years.

Speaking to the Weekender immediately after the game, Narrikup Coach Lisa O’Farrell said it was an amazing result for the club.

“We had nine teams through to the grand final and we won seven of them, so that’s an awesome thing to happen for our club,” she said.

“It hasn’t happened for a long time, we are normally lucky if we get one or two through.

“It’s an awesome effort. The girls wanted it – they dug deep.”

O’Farrell said Kowald, who returned from injury late in the season, was the difference between the two teams.

“We didn’t know if she would get back to playing this year,” she said.

“We brought her back very slowly.

Last time we lost to Railways we didn’t have Sheridan on the court. It made a really big difference today.”

After going out in straight sets in last year’s finals series, Narrikup Captain Kristie Slater said she felt incredibly relieved at the final whistle.

“To lose like we did last year hurt,” she said.

“We didn’t have a strong start to the season, but we knew we had the team to do it.

“We felt like we had momentum going into this final. The 20-goal win against Grammar I felt that was the best we’ve played as a team and coming into Tuesday night we knew Royals were on the back foot.

“All of our players played an important role today. I think our defensive pressure is what won us the game.”

Continue Reading

Tennis development set for Centennial

CITY of Albany Council unanimously approved the development of a 16-court tennis centre on the eastern side of the Centennial Park Sporting Precinct at Tuesday night’s ordinary council meeting.

The green light comes after a project group involving Albany’s three major tennis clubs of Merrifield, Emu Point and Lawley Park, Tennis West and the Lower Great Southern Tennis Association (LGSTA) reached a decision to place the centre in a central location.

The group had the choice between building the tennis centre at Emu Point Sporting Club, a site near North Albany Football Club and another Centennial Park option closer to Lockyer Avenue.

LGSTA President Les Bairstow said this location “came up trumps”.

“The existing infrastructure is all here. We assessed the four sites and this one came in well ahead of the others. It was a clear winner,” he said.

Originally the LGSTA had hoped to build a major regional centre in Albany, but that plan was abandoned because of costs.

Through the Centennial Park proposal, the new tennis centre will instead leverage off existing infrastructure and share facilities with other sports in the eastern pavilion.

If the development goes ahead, Mr Bairstow said LGSTA would have access to existing bar and function rooms at Centennial Stadium in the summer months.

The proposed project, which has been costed at around $4.8 million, will now need funding from State and Federal governments to move forward.

City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said the City has committed $100,000 to push the development along.

“It will need significant State and Federal funding to progress, so that’s the next phase we’ll have to work through,” he said.

The tennis centre was one of three projects Council supported to apply for Community Sporting and Recreation Facilities Fund grants, including female-friendly ablutions and changeroom upgrades at Princess Royal Sailing Club, and enhancing clubhouse facilities at Railways Football Club.

Existing tennis facilities at Merrifield and Lawley Tennis Clubs will be decommissioned, according to Mr Bairstow.

“There’s so much potential at Lawley with its location for its club room to be remodelled into something fantastic,” he said.

Meanwhile, Emu Point Tennis Club will operate as per normal.

“It will continue to exist as a suburban club,” he said.

“There are a lot of people down there who like to walk to tennis.”

Continue Reading

Royals’ premiership procession

ROYALS’ League side are back-to-back GSFL premiers after weathering a third quarter fight-back from Denmark-Walpole to run out convincing 44-point winners on Saturday afternoon.

Silky small forward Jayson Ford was all class for the Lions, finishing the day with four goals and the Alan Barnett Medal for best-on-ground.

On a windy day at Centennial Stadium, Royals led at every break as they dominated the midfield battle and inside-50 count to cap off a brilliant season undefeated.

The score line would have looked ugly if Denmark-Walpole didn’t rally in the third term, with the Magpies held goalless for the entire first half.

Coming off a famous underdog victory over Railways in the preliminary final, the Magpies were flat early on in Saturday’s Grand Final, as usually class players made some simple mistakes.

Big forward Stephen Beal was proving a handful early on, kicking two first quarter goals for Royals as they battled against a strong cross-ground breeze that slightly favoured the Magpies’ end.

The fancied Lions didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the second term, with the Magpies struggling to set up opportunities in attack.

Running out for his 200th League game, milestone man Rhys Jones was a standout down back for Royals, while teammate Hamish McMorran made some crucial intercept marks.

Denmark-Walpole continued to pay the price for their skill errors as they turned the ball over from a defensive kick-out to gift Tom Maslen a running goal at the 14-minute mark.

When Ford slotted home from a set-shot towards the end of the second term, Royals had opened up a 41-point lead by half-time.

Declan McNamara was running riot through the middle of the ground for the Lions, while Co-Captain Alec Haskins was one of the few shining lights for the Magpies.

Playing in their first Grand Final since 2012, the Magpies looked down-and-out heading into the second half but lifted themselves off the canvas in a highly entertaining third-quarter that breathed life into the contest.

Jaden Guidi brought the Centennial Stadium crowd to their feet with a spectacular pack mark in the goal square, before Matthew Dykes steered a running shot through the big sticks to reduce the margin to five goals.

When Shayne Zanetti nailed a set shot moments later, Denmark-Walpole had three on-the-trot.

But their momentum was brought to a halt at the 11-minute mark when Ford responded with a sensational snap to calm a few nerves in the Royals stands.

Jayden Woods gave Denmark-Walpole a glimmer of hope heading into the final quarter after a miracle goal on the boundary reduced the margin to 17-points.

But it was all one-way in the fourth term as Royals made the most of a strong breeze.

Ford kicked a major round his body at the seven-minute mark, before lively forward Brody Ogle snagged two more to hand Royals a momentous 13.11 (89) to 7.3 (45) victory.

Speaking to the Weekender immediately after the game, dual premiership coach Andrew Ruck said his unbeaten side had the perfect mix of young and old.

“We’ve got so much depth,” he said.

“Coming into today, I thought Denmark would have to be really lucky to beat us.

“We are lucky, we’ve had 7-8 of our guys come back from Perth. Other clubs need to take note: it’s so important to look after your juniors.

“When our juniors go away, they come back to us.”

Ruck praised Alan Barnett Medallist Jayson Ford for his match-winning performance.

“He has never been happier, that’s the best thing,” he said.

“It is great to see him get the reward. He’s always smiling and bringing a lot of energy to the group.”

Continue Reading

Narrikup’s victory propels them to GF

NARRIKUP have won through to the A1 Albany Netball Association Grand Final with a stunning upset victory over minor premiers Royals Saints on Tuesday night.

There were emotional scenes at the final whistle, with Narrikup’s players running towards each other for a group hug in the middle of the court.

The 51-39 triumph sets up a winner-takes-all grand final against Railways on Saturday.

After going out in straight sets in 2019, Narrikup looked hell-bent on making this year’s decider.

In a physical contest, the underdogs jumped out of the blocks in the first quarter to take a 14-9 lead over Royals, who looked down on confidence coming off a semi-final loss to Railways four days earlier.

Kristie Slater, the Michelle Parsons A1 Fairest and Best winner, was dominating in the mid-field for Narrikup, while forwards Casey Greay and Sheridan Kowald were looking dangerous up front.

Royals started to find some touch in the second quarter, but still trailed by six goals at the main break.

With Nardia Humphries not having her usual impact up forward for Royals, they struggled to peg back their deficit in the third and trailed by nine goals heading into the last quarter.

Narrikup’s energy out on the court went unmatched as they ran away the game to record a with 12-goal victory.

After winning last year’s A1 premiership and finishing the regular 2020 season on top of the ladder, Royals’ finals campaign ended in successive losses.

Speaking to the Weekender after the final whistle, Narrikup coach Lisa O’Farrell said she felt her team had a lot of momentum heading into Saturday’s grand final.

“Beating Grammar by 20 in the semi-final was a big boost coming into tonight,” she said.

“It was a hard-fought game out there. It’s one of the most physical games we’ve had in a few weeks.

“Everyone stood up, every player did their bit. There were some really big hits out there.

“We are pretty excited. It’s always good when you beat Royals.”

With only a four-day break between games, O’Farrell said Narrikup would focus on recovery.

“With the injuries we’ve had in the second half of the season, it’s about making sure everyone is up and ready to go,” she said.

 

ANA GRAND FINAL FIXTURES
Railways v Narrikup
Saturday 1pm – A1 – Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre

Narrikup v Bullets
Saturday 3.30pm – A2 – Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre

Continue Reading

Trampolinists are flipping fantastic

FLIPZONE Albany returned victorious from a competition in Perth with eight of its participants claiming 11 medals.

Despite the event being the first since lockdown, the group were far from rusty and many were awarded for new moves they had been working on.

Flipzone Owner and Coach Kay Panton said it was fantastic to see the happiness and energy of the children competing after waiting so long.

“All the children were very excited to be able to compete and finally show their routines,” she said.

“They had been training for a competition prior to COVID-19 which had to be cancelled, and all of them exceeded my expectations at this com- petition. I’ m very proud of them all.

“Only two participants had competed before, but for all the others it was their first competition and handled the pressure brilliantly.

“I think we have some up and coming little stars.”

Flipzone is based in the Master Builders Complex on Graham Street and has been running for seven years.

In that time its participants have achieved many state and national titles.

Ruby Beckett will be competing in November in the first national qualifier for next years nationals.

She had secured her place on the state team to go earlier this year before the cancellation.

Continue Reading