Wallsend women display touch of class 

THE Wallsend women’s 20 years and under touch football side defied experts and selectors to score a first at the NSW State Cup and cap a dominant year.

Despite going in as defending champions, Wallsend were written off as hopes of taking out the division at the State Cup at Port Macquarie from December 7 to 9.

Using the slight as motivation, the Belinda Caruso-coached side went through undefeated to become the first side in the division to claim back-to-back titles.

‘‘There’s a guy who does a magazine for the tournament and both years in his preview we were written off,’’ Wallsend captain and player of the final Ainsley Hughes said.

‘‘We weren’t even mentioned among the teams to beat so it definitely motivated us.’’

Wallsend’s unbeaten run was one of three for the side at major tournaments this year, following identical efforts at the NSW Country Championships in May and Hunter Western Regional Championships in October.

At Port Macquarie, Wallsend beat Bankstown 13-0, Murwillumbah 5-0, Nelson Bay 4-1, Northern Suburbs 6-2, Mudgee 12-0 and Manly (2) 3-1 in the quarter-finals.

They took on Manly (1) in the semi-finals and were locked 5-5  at full-time. In extra-time, Shannon Evans scored the match-winner to set up a final showdown with Tamworth, who they defeated last year in the decider.

Hughes scored a try and set up another as Wallsend cruised to a 4-1 victory.

Despite the success, no Wallsend players were picked in the NSW 20-years team.

Hughes said selectors told the side their team-oriented game was too cohesive for anyone to stand out. Another factor was that many top players in the age group competed in open sides.

In recognition  of the side’s stellar season, Caruso was named NSW Touch Association junior coach of the year.

Wallsend’s men’s over-30s side also claimed a State Cup title for the club, which had four of 12 teams in grand finals.

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