The Greater Northern Tigers under-16s slumped to their third successive loss in the Andrew Johns Cup at Armidale Rugby League Park but the atmosphere in the dressing shed was far from forlorn despite the 30-16 defeat to the Northern Rivers Titans.
Coach Brett Jarrett lamented the lapses and errors which littered his young side’s game.
Sure they had their chances and led twice in the first half after tries by Brady Roser and Deacon Hampstead and went to the break 12-10 up.
However, the Titans scored early in the second period to lead before their winger, Jaylen Taewa, took an intercept and raced away 60m and then their hooker, Robert Simon, dived over from dummy half to make it 26-12.
Riley Pennell’s good, wide pass to Jacob Cordina gave the side a spark of a chance but a try to Titan Levi Dangerfield finalised the win.
Indeed, the final four-pointer signified the sort of day the young Tigers had.
The Titans sent down a long, high clearing kick from inside their own half, only for the swirling torpedo to be dropped and for the Northern Rivers chasers to race through and dive on the loose ball over the line.
It was a disappointing end to a match that had promised plenty.
Jarrett was uplifting in his post-game assessment and told his young side it “just isn’t about winning Country Championships”.
“It’s not the be all and end all,” he told the hurting young men.
“It’s about improving you (as players and people).
“Sure, a couple of wins would be nice and that’s what we strive for but heads up.
“It’s all a learning curve for you.
“You’re playing in the toughest football you’ve ever played.
“This takes more effort than playing club football but you will be better for it, heads up and think about Cessnock.”
It was a stirring address to remind the teenagers they are starting a journey in a far different realm than their club – and they showed they are improving.
“We’re getting closer,” Jarrett said.
“We’re definitely improving and that’s what we are looking for, looking to have quality young football players.”
One of those quality young players is second-rower Logan Spinks.
He was named the side’s player of the match and received the game ball from his teammates and coaches.
Logan, 15, attends Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School.
His father, Michael, is a former Tiger, playing for the then Northern Division when he was a premiership-winning fullback with the West Lions in Tamworth.
He also possessed a massive left boot although he jokes Logan has a bigger one and his other son has an even bigger kick.
The youngster has seen a few videos of his dad in outstanding action and helping the Lions to Group 4 premierships.
“I was a fullback, too,” he admits with a grin.
“We got a good start today,” he continued “just made too many mistakes.
“And we just put our heads down when something doesn’t go our way.”
While they made many errors, they were also handed a few rough calls and the officials missed a few shoulder charges to boot.
Logan shrugged and while he hasn’t been playing in the pack for long, he’s enjoying the rough, tough stuff in the middle and a few run-ins with rival forwards.
“It’s different,” he said to the former days of playing fullback.
“Good fun,” he said of the bashing and belting in the big charges.
The thrill of the emotional outbursts and bullish bravado makes it a different game for Logan.
“That was good to get the game ball, too,” he added.
“Coming from them, recognising the stuff I do.”
He is now looking towards Saturday’s fourth round clash with Newcastle in Cessnock.
“It’s all about next week,” Jarrett adds.
“It’s about recovery and getting right to go again next week.”
- by Geoff Newling
NORTHERN RIVERS TITANS 30 (Kye Cooper, Lachlan Offley, Jaylen Taewa, Robert Simon, Cameron Bevan, Levi Dangerfield tries; Bo Peisley goals) d GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS 16 (Deacon Hampstead, Brady Roser, Jacob Cordina tries; Ryan Witherdin 2 goals)