- Kent Brockman - Investigative Sports Journalist
A clean sweep at MacKillop Field for the Saints
The annual City of Palmerston Cup was hosted by MacKillop today with three exciting matches against local rivals, Palmerston College, on the draw cards.
The opening match was a Middle School Girls game that saw the Palmerston College side get out to a fast start having opened the scoring with a good try, early in proceedings. Saints Girls were able to regain their composure with a highlight reel try to team leader, Natalia Grant, from a kick regather which set the tone for the second half. Team captain, Eva Kay, directed players through the middle of the park and the Saints soon gained some ascendency. With a wealth of second half possession, the team were able to play some expansive football and ended up winning the game 30 – 12.
Coach, Mr Robbie Butcher, awarded star player, Annabell Kay, with the player of the day award for her safe hands and line break running style playing out of the fullback position. In addition to Grant and the ever consistent Kay twins, Butcher also pointed towards Zayley Baster who showed incredible strength and determination today on her way towards bagging a brace of tries on the edges. Paige McCourt and Piper Heath were also among those who impressed, although they did so in only limited game time today.
Next on the list was a Middle School Boys showdown between two fairly even sides on paper. Former Saint, Taylem Sariago, was a familiar face in the opposition for his new school and was keen on a good showing against his former teammates. For the home side, fullback, Jayden Mick, was awarded the captaincy by coach, Mr Jasen Bryers, as an acknowledgement of his sustained efforts and displays of leadership potential over the course of his middle school career.
The Middle School Boys defended well throughout the game and limited the opposition to only 4 points while they were able to score 28 points of their own. Bookend prop, Trent Harvey, led the team from the front on his way to a player of the game performance. Harvey’s influence was inspiration for next generation prop, Glen Ah Mat, who made his debut today and didn’t look out of place against an older opposition than what he’s otherwise used to. Coach Bryers mentioned Ethan McKenzie as a player who had a remarkable influence on the result of the match, coming off the bench to play in the second row.
The main event Senior Boys match kicked off at 12.30pm with plenty of cloud cover still overhead which helped make the playing conditions more bearable. Both teams were determined to put in a spirited performance and hopefully take home the coveted Palmerston Cup. For the Saints, the goal was to retain it, having won in 2021, and for Palmerston, to win it back, with both teams having won it and then lost it in sequence since the Cup’s inception in 2016. Liam Kennedy captained the team for the final time, assisted capably by star half, Brandon Norris, as his deputy.
It didn’t take long for Captain Kennedy to cross the Palmerston College chalk, diving over in the 3rd minute from close range after a PC ruck penalty gifted the Saints with territory. No longer than 2 minutes later, vice-captain Norris scored his first of two to put the Saints out to an early 10-0 lead. The second of Norris’ double was a contender for try of the season where he went on to fend his way through the Palmerston defence on route to a 60m breakaway put down. Alfie Walker and team regular, Dylan Mugadza, sans-durag, were two others who kept the scorers busy with first half tries.
Going into the break at a 26 – 4 deficit, a comeback was firmly on the minds of the visitors and in parts, they managed to play some decent football. Tries to player of the match, Cohen Patch, and Brayden Tilley in the second half, made the task unachievable, but that didn’t dent the spirit of our rivals, with Toby Mandziak sneaking over from dummy half late in the second half for a consolation try. When the full time whistle finally blew, Saints celebrated a 38-8 win and a retention of the Palmerston Cup.
Not only did the full time whistle signify the end of the match but sadly, it also signified the end of a number of decorated school careers for our graduating class of 2022. Head Coach, Mr Matthew Sharp, was interviewed post-match and offered the following comments on the 2022 group –
‘The manner of victory today in the Palmerston Cup was a fitting way for the Year 12 players to bow out in a typical fashion to what they’ve showed us over their years spent in the MacKillop kit. While we’ll celebrate their success today, we’ll reflect on this group as the most successful core we’ve had at the College, at least in my tenure, and with that comes a realisation that all good things do eventually come to an end. Results are never the most important thing in school rugby league, although they were able to achieve some very memorable wins, but what is, is that as a player and as a group, you leave the jersey in a better place than what you found it. For the playing group of 2022, there is little doubt that they were able to do that. They hold a special place in my heart and I will remember them fondly’.
Similar sentiments were expressed by former coach and club founder, Mr David Graham, who was able to be contacted via telegram from an undisclosed location, somewhere north of the Tropic of Capricorn –
‘Congratulations to the MacKillop Saints on your comprehensive Palmerston Cup victory! Special mention to the Senior players who have now played their final game in the Navy & Ochre. You have earned your place in the Saints’ storied history and will forever remain esteemed alumni of this great college. Stand tall and lead with courage!’.
Graduate Class of 2022
Liam Kennedy – Captain
Liam will be remembered as an inspirational leader who set high standards of himself and of those around him. He really embodied the role of not only seniors captain but also of club captain in his final year and mentored junior players, particularly through the Eels Cup campaign. Liam had a well-rounded game with a ball playing ability and a competent kicking game that is rarity for a player in the forward pack.
Brandon Norris – Vice-Captain
Mr Sharp described Brandon as the up there with the best players that he has coached during his time at MacKillop and that is some wrap considering some of the players we’ve had come through the program which included the likes of Stepheno George and Jake Crawley. To witness Brandon grow from a skinny teenager into a genuine first grade player in the space of only a few short years has been a pleasure for the MacKillop crowd. Remember his name; I’m sure we’ll be hearing it often in his career after school.
Kosi, as he’s affectionately known, came into the program in Year 10 having never played a game of Rugby League and saved his best game for his last out on MacKillop Field today. In the early days, he was lucky to catch a ball and in the later days, the defence was lucky to be able to catch him! A slippery customer; he will be well remembered for a classic try against Palmerston College in 2021 where he stepped what seemed like their entire team starting on one wing to score all the way over in the other corner.
Dylan wasn’t our first Eels Cup winning captain, but he was the first to defend it. He was a mainstay in our teams for a long time and had a direct influence in each and every game he played. Dylan was a player that his coaches loved to coach and that our players loved to play with. That alone is perhaps the biggest compliment that a player can be given.
Brayden was a reliable player who always got the job done without fuss regardless of his position. Moving between wing and hooker, we saw his game mature into a point where he was able to give his team direction and reliable service all the while playing above his weight in the ruck. Brayden scored today but his most memorable try was a 60m effort in the 2020 Eels Cup qualifying round where he shocked not only the opposition but the crowd with a turn of speed through the middle of the ruck to score under the black dot.
The eldest of the Brown boys, DJ too has been a mainstay in our teams since his enrolment at MacKillop. For his selfless efforts and ‘can do’ attitude displayed towards whatever was asked of him be it on or off the field and in league or union, he received a Saints Clubman of the Year award in Year 10 in recognition of his contributions.
Others who didn’t play today, but whose contributions over the years cannot be understated include Noah Pinhiero, Jett Wilson and Brandon McConnell who themselves directly helped to create the Saints environment that we see today.
As the sun sets on a golden era of Saints Rugby League, we’ll all fondly remember the efforts of the 2022 graduate players both on and off the pitch. They have set the standard for what it means to be a Saint in the manner in which they played and the manner in which they conducted themselves off the pitch. Some of these boys will go one to have successful Rugby League careers and others may not ever play the game again. Regardless, what they were able to achieve here, together, was special and something that we hope they will hold fondly in their memories.
No matter where you go, or what you become, remember that you are Saints and you will always have a home here.
Kent Brockman – Investigative Sports Journalist