PORT Macquarie continued its preparations for December’s State Cup with an impressive country championship win at Dubbo on Sunday.
The Makos mixed open team defeated arch rivals Port Hunter 6-4 in the grand final to cap off an undefeated tournament.
Port Macquarie started the final slowly and conceded the first try before they hit back with four in a row of their own.
Captain Aaron Ison said Katie Kelly and Anna Lewis had impressive tournaments on the end of a slick backline.
“They both play the same position on the left wing and were as strong as any wingers in the tournament,” he said.
“They defended really well and finished the tries as we expected them to.”
The victory avenged a loss in the final to the same opponent in the NSW Hunter Western Hornets Championships final in Maitland two weeks ago.
Ison said the team was down on numbers throughout the weekend and the loss at Maitland provide added motivation to go one step further.
The girls probably stepped up a level too, because they had more subs than us so we utilised their legs a lot more to attack.Port Macquarie mixed open's captain Aaron Ison
“We only had the four guys play the semi-final and final so it’s pretty unexpected to win,” he said.
“Normally you have eight boys and six girls, but we only had four boys and five girls.
“The girls probably stepped up a level too, because they had more subs than us so we utilised their legs a lot more to attack.
“They probably won the tournament for us because they played at a men’s level at times to offset our shortage of men.”
Teenager Tony Thompson stepped up to a level where he was one of the team’s best.
“He’s a 16-year-old fella playing his first tournament with us,” Ison said.
“He doesn’t normally play in our team, but he stepped up and played outstanding in the final.”
Beau Montgomery was awarded player of the final, but Ison said everyone in the team played their own part.
The Port Macquarie captain admitted the success at the country championships would place added pressure and expectations on their upcoming State Cup campaign.
Effectively we’re ranked in the top five in the state and last year we didn’t play anywhere near where we should have.Aaron Ison
“These tournaments are all stepping stones to the State Cup,” he said.
“Effectively we’re ranked in the top five in the state and last year we didn’t play anywhere near where we should have.
“We underachieved and finished eighth or tenth, but this year with a couple of other teams not entering it’s a good chance for us to be really successful.”
Ison suggested the team could head to Sydney to play in weekend tournaments between now and the State Cup in December.
“We’re a pretty committed sort of team which is why we have the success we do,” he said.
“We don’t mind doing that extra 10 per cent and playing those other teams because it puts you in good stead for State Cup.”