U15 team heading to regional contest

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The Eastern Southland under-15 rugby girls are about to embark on their biggest challenge to date.

The team is set to compete at the Highlanders Regional Girls Tournament in Mosgiel next weekend.

Coach Garth Cleland said the group entered two teams in the competition – one tackle and one Rippa rugby team.

“We have four 12-year-olds in the side and they’re not allowed to play tackle.

“We want to nurture bringing them through the game,” Cleland said.

The tackle grade was 10-a-side but Rippa would be seven-a-side.

The competition included 20 teams from Oamaru to Invercargill.

Captain Lauryn Pickney (14) looked forward to heading away to the team’s final competition.

“It’s going to be good playing teams from further afield than just in Southland,” she said.

The Eastern team included about 23 players, 14 girls coming from Riversdale School, Longford Intermediate, St Peter’s College and Gore High.

Other players were from James Hargest College in Invercargill.

“Andy Rowlands coaches there and we decided to combine to provide more opportunities for everyone,” Cleland said.

Eastern players had been training since about October last year.

“We started with skills and working around tackling and passing for them.”

The side played in a 10-a-side school competition in Southland before playing in a 15-a-side for four weeks.

The Highlanders’ tournament was the last event of the season, he said.

Eastern players proved successful this season with several receiving high honours.

Melissa Currie (14), Greer Cleland (15), Dixie Burr (14), Alyssa Little (14), Erin Phillipson (14) and Pickney were chosen for the Southland under-15 sevens squad.

A further four players were chosen for the Southland Maori under-17 team.

The team was grateful to the Mataura Licensing Trust and the entire community for supporting the team.

“Everyone’s been fantastic – we cannot thank them enough.”

The MLT gave $750 to the Eastern team.