Australian head coach Karley Banks made history during the Youth Trans-Tasman test football series in Newcastle last week, becoming the most-capped youth mentor since Kathy O’Brien as her 18s squad stormed to a 3–0 record.
The Australia vs New Zealand test series saw girls, boys, and mixed under 18s and 20s teams battle it out for the 2020 crown. In the end, at No.2 Sportsground, the home nation scored the clean sweep, edging NZ in all six series.
For Banks, it was a major moment in her career. Not only was it her first Youth Trans-Tasman series, but it was the moment she stepped into the history books as a juniors boss in the world of Australia touch football.
To celebrate, her squad delivered her three rousing victories. The team opened its run with a high-scoring 11–7 battle, before Australia held New Zealand to lower scores in the second and third meetings, 9–3 and 8–3.
According to Banks, who spoke to the Women’s Chronicle after her success, the three-game victory was a “very proud moment” in her 10-year career. To her, it felt like lifting the YTT trophy was “bringing things full circle.”
“Despite all the tournament success I’ve had in recent years with Doyalson and the Hunter Western Hornets, this was a goal that had been nagging away at me. To finally shake the monkey off my back feels enormously satisfying,” she said.
“My team were clinical and ruthless. They did everything right. We prepared really well for the sweltering conditions at the camps we held and had great recovery protocols and did our homework on a very talented NZ team who were favourites.”
Banks had to hand-craft the championship squad heading into the 2020 series, after the victorious cohort from last year were aged out by the new rules which moved the competition from under 19s to under 18s.
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The Australian coach re-selected her new side, twelve of the fourteen of which were ticking off their green and gold debuts. Then, on the eve of the first match, illness struck another player and she had to bring an auto-sub, Lachie Fitzhenry, to fill the gap.
“Lachie was a shadow who had trained at both camps with us. He came in and did a magnificent job in the first two tests before the ill player was cleared to come back into the squad for us and play the final game,” she explained.
“Overall, the boys played a fantastic, free-flowing game in attack, bankrolled by dominant midfield ownership in the ruck area in attack and defence to completely dominate the highly fancied Kiwi outfit. I couldn’t be prouder.”
While Banks, who has been coaching since 2005 when she represented Australias as the Mixed Youth 20s assistant boss, has played a heavy hand in forging her own success, she also took the time to thank an old mentor, Tony Trad.
Trad, who used to coach the Aussie Men’s Open squad, was the one who pushed Banks back to the elite levels, she revealed, and he continued to check in on the YTT and her progress while he was in New York.
“A lot of people have helped me reinvent myself as a coach and a person, and Trady, my family, and the Doylo boys have all been pivotal in my reformation,” she said.
After her dominant 3–0 series win in Newcastle, Banks confirmed she’s already turned her attention to the next campaign: she has an NTL Men’s Open title defend with the Hunter Western Hornets, and State of Origin arrives in June.
From there, she hopes she can make another bid to be the head coach for the Aussie 18s ahead of the 2021 Youth World Cup, which will be held in Manchester next year.