Rocky touch reps play part in securing world No.1 ranking
TOUCH: Fourteen Rockhampton touch players are on top of the world after helping Australia to a clean sweep in the Youth Trans-Tasman Series last month.
The six national teams that played in the series in New Zealand are now ranked number one following the release of world rankings by the Federation of International Touch.
Rockhampton's Mitchell Smith, who was the assistant coach of the Australian under-19 mixed team, said it was a wonderful reward.
"It was a great to win all six divisions in the series, and it was great to have such a strong local representation in the teams.
"We had 14 players plus myself as a coach, which effectively means one team came from Rockhampton.”
Smith credited the rising success of Rockhampton touch to the training and development and the willingness of the city's elite players to give back to the sport.
"We're ahead of everyone else so clearly we're doing the right things here,” he said.
Smith had four Rocky players - Harrison Griffin, Connor Harvey, Jack Hughes and Luke O'Brien - in his team and said that familiarity proved a real advantage.
He is now gearing up for next week's Elite Eights Series, where he will be assistant coach of the Queensland Cowboys women's team, which includes Rockhampton's Tamika Upton, Greta Doherty, Jess Bourke, Grace Wakeman, Lydia Durkin and Jordan Zielke.
"We've got a very, very young side, the average age is 16,” Smith said. "We could win it - things just have to fall into place for us.”
Smith has been playing touch for more than 20 years but turned his attention to coaching about eight years ago.
He has now decided to make it his main focus.
"I love seeing the kids succeed and enjoying themselves. That's why I do it,” he said.
"I'm at a point now where I just want to coach as much as I can and give as much back to the sport as I can.”
Rockhampton also has seven players in the Queensland Cowboys men's team which is looking to go back-to-back at the Elite Eights.
They are Australian star Dan Withers, Jayden Benbow, Dave Zanette, Damon Moore, Brayden Hegarty, Jack Hughes and Malcolm Kenny.
Meanwhile, CQ Touch will send two boys and a girls team to the T20 competition being staged at the same carnival.
The boys made the national final but lost in a close game and will be hoping to go one better this year.