Trans Tasman glory for Withers
DOWN to the dying minute, the champion team was still unclear with New Zealand edging closer to the tryline and Australia fighting to hold their one point lead.
Rockhampton’s Daniel Withers swears he had never played a game so “courageous” and “awesome” as when the Australian Open Men’s side reclaimed the Trans Tasman title in Auckland at the weekend.
The Australian representative returned home on Tuesday after his team went against all odds to steal the crown from New Zealand in the three-game series at 2-1.
“We had the confidence and it was just very courageous. I have never experienced anything like it – I just can’t explain it, to come back from 4-1 at half time is amazing,” Withers said.
In the first game of the series Australia scored the first touchdown, but New Zealand lashed back to lead 3-1 at half-time then pushed their lead further to 6-3 at full time.
The second game was a must-win for Australia, who hit back with a 4-1 lead into half-time with Withers pushing all his strength to secure a try. It ended in a tight 10-8 to Australia. It wasn’t looking good for Australia at half-time of the decider with New Zealand charging ahead with a 4-1 lead, but the score didn’t dampen the team’s spirit.
“At half-time we just came together. No one stopped believing; we believed the whole way through,” he said.
“In the last minute of the game they were right on our scoreline and we just had to defend.”
Australia clinched the game at 7-6, with Withers securing another crucial score, which capped off the championships in a clean sweep with all three of the Australian teams – Open Men, Open Women and Mixed – claiming their titles.
Withers said the Australian men’s team defied all odds with New Zealand backing their strongest team in years on their home turf.
“We had a big transition period in our men’s side since our last Trans Tasman, so we had a lot of young guys playing,” he said.
“But our team just gelled really well; before we had a few bad eggs who just divided the team – we (current team) have a massive bond and strong camaraderie.
“Our coach said it was the best he has ever seen and that was Australian touch football’s finest hour.”
Withers said since the local touch football carnival in Rockhampton with Benji Marshall, the team had built its strength up greatly in preparation for the Trans Tasman.
The fresh Australian team now sits in prime position as it looks to the next international competition, the World Championships, early in 2011.
But there may be some new faces on the scene with Withers’ brothers joining forces with him at Nationals in March this year.
Daniel, Clint and Mitchell Withers will hit the national championships together in the Central Queensland team.
“A lot of young Rocky boys will play it for the first time in the open men’s level.”