The Illawarra’s top junior footballers have returned home from Coffs Harbour as national champions after a successful Australian Junior Oztag Championships.
Nine teams from the region travelled to the tournament, with eight qualiftying for the finals.
The girls 15s and under 17s teams finished second while the under 14, under 16 and under 17 boys teams were victorious.
Known as the Coastal Vipers, the teams featured the best players from the Shellharbour, Wollongong and Kiama junior oztag competitions.
“It’s pretty massive really when you consider there’s heaps of teams at the tournament, there’s the whole of Australia. It’s a pretty big achievement.” Under 14 boys coach David Riolo said.
“It’s the best this region has ever gone, it was great. It’s obviously a huge tournament in Coffs Harbour, it’s a fantastic result for the kids to enjoy the tournament and also to help grow the sport in the region.”
Riolo tipped that a number of Illawarra players who featured at the titles could have promising futures in both the sport of oztag and rugby league.
“There’s some really talented oztag guys who are really talented rugby league players as well. There’s quite a few who you’ll see in a Dragons jersey down the track or even higher representative honours for Australia in oztag.”
The under 14 boys side finished the tournament undefeated and Riolo was proud of their teamwork. “They were very committed, very skillful, they’re a great group of young guys who work really hard together as a team, there are no superstars and they did really well.”
The tournament was thrown into chaos after heavy rain forced the first day of the two-day event to be abandoned without a tag being ripped. Event organisers were forced to condense the tournament into one day, which only added to the intensity.
“It was a bit more intense on Sunday, which added to the drama. More games in a shorter time meant you really had to be on your game straight up to get the results.”