Teamwork and dedication were the name of the game at a touch tournament in Rotorua recently, as two Thames Valley junior teams came away with podium finishes.
Thames Valley Touch sent two teams to the inaugural Rowdy’s Memorial Touch Tournament on January 27 and 28.
The under 12 mixed touch team, Thames Valley Turbos, won their grade with a 5-4 win against Lake City, while the under 14 mixed team, Thames Valley, narrowly lost their final 4-3 to Waioranga after a draw at full time forced a drop off to decide the game.
Turbos manager Hinemoa Thwaites said her team’s win was a testament to the hard work the 13 kids had put in over the summer to prepare for the tournament.
“We’re really proud of the kids,” she said.
“The amount of effort and dedication that goes into this, we’re talking about a whole summer period. They had a little bit of time off over the Christmas period but there was homework; they were having to do 50 passes every night, they were sending off photos to our little group chat, and [having] regular check-ins.”
Hinemoa said many of the 10- and 11-year-olds on the team were new to touch, and so their focus was on building their connection as a group.
“We had more girls than we had boys, so we just paired the boys up and said, ‘Hey, this is your buddy system’. We had some really beautiful friendships grow from it,” she said.
At the tournament, there were only two u12 mixed teams, so the Turbos played most of their nine games against all-boy teams. They played their final against the other mixed team, and even when they won Hinemoa said the kids were gracious in their victory.
“We had a few tears, we had a whole heap of in-the-air high-fives, it was really really beautiful,” she said.
“And then they did a haka for the other team. [We] wanted to make sure that the legacy they left was, we’re happy and proud of the mahi we’ve done, but we’re also mindful of the other team. And just being a little bit humble, just to make sure that they’re okay.”
The u14 team also faced all-boy teams for most of the tournament, but their two games against mixed teams both resulted in draws, a feat which coach Savaan Ballantine was impressed by.
“I think that the kids really grew up over the course of the season, and that it showed during the tournament,” she said.
Despite the initial disappointment of their loss, Savaan said the kids were thrilled at their performance during the final.
“They were so excited, being in a final and being in a drop off. They said that playing that game felt like being in an All Blacks game,” she said.
“[And] I think the best way to lose in a final is at a drop off. They really put their all into it.”