The Wildfires have emerged from their first outing in the Jack Scott Cup with a loss, but not through lack of trying, as the Hunter women’s squad put up a heroic effort against reigning premiers Sydney Uni in a 60-point defeat at No.2 Sportsground.
The scoreline may have been lopsided, but considering Sydney Uni were the runaway premiers just last season, and piled 50 points on their grand final rivals in the decider, Wildfires coach Adam Dubois says he’s “very proud” of the efforts from his team.
“The girls really squared up and showed that they can take on the best in their first game, that’s exactly what I wanted to see,” he told the Chronicle. “Sydney Uni really are the benchmark in the comp, so it was a really good test for us first up.”
The travelling University team raced to a 27–nil lead at the half-time break, and turned the screws in the second to finish 60 points clear at No.2 Sportsground.
Jemima McCalman and Wallaroos superstar Grace Hamilton both scored doubles. Across the full Sydney lineup, eight Australian reps player big minutes against the Wildfires.
There was absolutely no shame in the scoreline against “the best” though, Dubois said of the match. The Hunter Wildfires squad “played their hearts out” and showed exactly what they could do; they built a base to learn from for the rest of the season.
“I was wildly impressed with how the girls held their nerves going up against the Sydney team, they had to shut out the fact there were a lot of big names. It was never going to be easy, but we prepared well for it,” the Wildfires coach said.
“The pace of the game was a bit of a surprise for them I think. We gave away most of the points down the flanks — we matched them in the middle of the park, I think — and that is a good thing to build off. We learned a lot, especially about width.”
Dubois added the Hunter squad is a “work in progress” in terms of bringing regional talent into the Jack Scott Cup, and giving them a chance to progress.
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“There’s some girls in this Hunter team that I think people will be writing about, and talking about, in just a few years at the top of the game. This is where that starts, and so it was a great learning experience to play the talent of Sydney first up,” he said.
“You never, never want to lose a game, but if you have to lose a game it may as well be first up against the premiers Sydney Uni. We played against the best, aimed up against the best, and now we’ve learned from the best.
“The girls have already exceeded expectations, which is great. We can only go up from here, and I want to see the girls continue to aim up all competition long.”
Next up, the Wildfires play Campbell Women’s down south in Sydney. The third-round game will be played on August 8 — as long as the Covid-19 situation in the state capital doesn’t get any worse mid-week.
“The aim now is points on the board. The girls have confidence in our systems that we’ve created, and I know they’ll work, it’s just about getting over the line and going from there,” he said. “We’re taking it one step at a time, and growing together.”