Great Wall

May 1, 2016 @ 7:30 UTC

The Australian Women’s Open stamp their authority over the Kiwis delivering the wider Australian team a winning majority and this sporting phenomenon a new found resolve…and if that wasn’t enough, for other International teams a sense of foreboding: a new and improved fortress.

Walls. Every structure needs them.

With names of the quality and ilk of Winchester, Rogerson, and not the least the foundation stone of coach, Bell, now no longer part of the Australian Women’s structure, one could argue this particular green and gold wall might feel a little if not shaky then perhaps a brick or two short with some grout and cement missing.

Not the regulation health regulation type risk but a structure needing at least a good safety check and perhaps a little plaster or replacement blocks.

Fast forward twelve months and with some of those sizeable and some say irreplaceable blocks removed, the replacement stones are holding up well. Very well in fact. In fact that well the wall is back and as ominous as ever. Dare we say, rock solid with a number of little gems in the formwork?

Over to the new foreman and his take on his impressive new project.

“I heard the commentators (live streaming) refer to our defence as ‘the wall’ and there was definitely a wall out there today. And, to hold the same team from last night to two touchdowns  that put six on us last night means a lot to us as a group,” a beaming and very pleased new Australian Women’s coach, Swain Rovelli said post-match with one half of his coaching team beside him, Craig Morrow.

With both on debut as Open’s coaches for this campaign, this was a particularly sweet victory; great mates off the field and already delivering along with fellow-assistant, Michael Moussa, great results for this already formidable outfit. The wall supports in the form of this trio appear also to be in great shape and supporting well the great wall of Australia.

“I can’t speak more highly of the work that both my assistants Mick (Assistant Coach, Michael Moussa) and Craig (Morrow) have done and after last night, and such is their dedication, both watched the games three times last night and you saw the results of the hard work that Craig and Mick did with the defensive efforts today and kudos to the players for executing the plans.

“This is a first team of a new cycle with seven new rookies which is the case with a new generation [of players], they have all been outstanding since we started preparations and all have improved since we started together and with the assistance of the senior players such as Sammy (Hopkin), they have grown in a level of confidence and we have seen it in both games their willingness to do the hard work and buy into what they want.

For Morrow it was a great team effort and consequence of some hard work and application.

“It’s always good to win naturally and [we’re] very happy for the girls obviously; we don’t do this for ourselves, we do it for the girls and the enjoyment they get out of it.

“It’s pleasing that they listened and responded accordingly. They could have easily been under pressure and changed the way we wanted to do things, but to their great credit they didn’t: they listened and trust us and we trust them and it worked out perfectly as you see.  

To the match, and it was much like the Mixed Open affair; a bit of a stand-off between teams with both trading blows and chancing their arms at respective ends with neither converting or really threatening.

However, six minutes in it was Hannah Dyball of Manly who got the party started with a very clever and evasive dance through heavy traffic to score. Marikki Watego then soon got in on the act pushing the gap out by two with a cross out wide at the seven-minute mark.

Tayla Clifford then went over after some good lead-up work inside and was great throughout the match driving the ball hard and catching the eye of her coaches along with other debutantes and more seasoned stars, such was her strong performance.

Usually accustomed to scoring touchdowns at a clip, it was a diving Kim Sue-See that saved a certain touchdown by New Zealand soon-after and a good barometer of things to come from the Aussie girls. The wall has many moving parts and traps as we all witnessed early. These four particular gemstones to name but a few provide the new foundation with the girls on debut the building blocks to the future.

One chink in the fortress though allowed Willison of New Zealand to quickly strike back for the Kiwis bringing the score to 3-1 after 10 minutes. They would add only one more from this point and that warrants a stop in play and some closer examination with the clock stopped.

For the next 30 minutes the Aussie girls held the Kiwis scoreless, except for one more try to Willison later in the piece. With play resumed and time back on, Watego reverted to type to cross again with a minute on the clock from a terrific 25m long bullet pass from Danni Davis hitting the mark, and taking the deficit to three.

After the half-time break it was Leah Percy who saluted, then touchdown number six came from Australia’s captain and number six, Lizzie Campbell who was superb in leading her troops on debut and strong and poised throughout.

For the Percy touchdown it was crafted from some great lead-up work by Sammy Hopkin who troubled New Zealand close to the line and led from the front all game. Hopkins, along with Percy are the key senior members now, following the changing of the guard last year, and you could say the bedrock in this impregnable wall – a responsibility they both relish and in fact clearly thrive on.

“Yeah, it was awesome to see the new girls step up and you naturally worry a bit without the [retired] senior players and their experience,” Hopkin said today after notching yet another title to her considerable list and in her usual understated manner.

“But they stepped up very well and played awesome throughout; my role has changed a bit but while a little scary, I really have enjoyed it.

“We’ve been asked to lead by example and show the way for the new girls so hopefully that is the case and we see the results of that.

“And that’s what I try to do and get the little things right.”

Little things indeed. This wall will need scaling as breaking through doesn’t appear an option for oppositions any time soon.

FINAL SCORES: Australia 6 (Lizzie Campbell, Samantha Hopkin, Hayley Maddick, Mia Johnstone, Leah Percy, Shellie Davis, Marikki Watego) defeated New Zealand 2 (Willison 2).

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