COACH Tim Partridge expects a large number of the Hunter Wildfires under-17s to graduate to the colts representative ranks next season after they claimed the region’s first state title.
The Wildfires beat Parramatta 17-15 in the final at Pittwater Park, Warringah, on Monday to cap an incredible season.
Kyle Rob kicked a penalty with five minutes remaining and the Wildfires then defended their line to close out the game.
“Country teams normally go down there and are cannon fodder,” Partridge said. “This group is a special. They just kept stepping up. We lost captain Alex Vaughan (shoulder) in the second game on the Saturday, but the other forwards picked up the load. Will Archer, Harrison Dal Molin and Jack Allen aimed up against the Sydney team’s big forwards. Zach Crowley was great at outside centre. It was a real team effort. All 23 boys contributed.”
The Wildfires lost to Parramatta 15-13 before beating Randwick (33-0) and Warringah (19-5) to finish second in their pool. They beat an unbeaten Central Coast 20-17 in the semi-final and then turned the tide on the Two Blues. The win followed a third place at the Country titles and an unbeaten tour of New Zealand.
“Hopefully a lot of these boys will move into the under-19 program next season,” Partridge said.
* Partridge’s co-coach Steve Merrick didn’t find out the result until late Monday night. The former Wallaby is participating in a ride across the country for charity and missed the state titles.
“It was the longest day in the saddle in his life,” Partridge said. “He couldn’t wait to get to the phone.”