Junior Manly Marlins and Mermaids created history at Forster on Saturday when each of the MJRU’s four teams – U/15s and U/17s, boys and girls – finished undefeated and top of their groups on day one of the NSW State Sevens Championships.
Not a bad effort on four weeks’ notice.
They arrived in Forster on Friday night. By midday on the Saturday the boys teams had won all seven games. By the end of the day the two girls had won eight from eight.
And thus was created history as the Marlins became the only junior club to ever finish top seed in every competition entered.
Both U/15 teams would win state titles. The U/17 boys finished runner-up (to Warringah Rats) while the U/17 girls went down to Randwick in the semi-final.
The U/17 girls came up against joint favourites Randwick in the semi-final and were up two tries to nil.
Yet, as can happen in the hurly burly of sevens rugby, weight of possession led to points.
The Mermaids would go down on the bell, just as they had the last time these two powerhouses of Sydney junior rugby sevens met.
Mermaids coach Stevie Berryman lamented that the two best teams – which finished first and second – met in the semi-final.
He said each member of his squad contributed at times across the weekend though Edie Burke, Ally Bullman and Piper Simon were standouts.
“Piper, there’s not much of her but she doesn’t care. She’s got a big heart and no fear. And she can play.
“Edie Burke was outstanding in defence and in ruck and groundwork. She won us a lot of ball back. Everything she did paid dividends.
“And then there was Ally Bullman. Big tackles, big impact. Big future! She was so impressive, particularly as she’s only just come back from a long-term back injury,” Berryman said.
Several Mermaids appear to have big futures with no less than eight of their squad in the NSW Pathways system.
“A few of them have been approached by rugby league. But they’re in the rugby system now and will be for a while,” Berryman – who after four years with Manly Warringah Sea Eagles juniors is now focusing solely on Manly Mermaids – said.
Harry Berryman looked after the U/15 boys team which beat Southern Districts 12-7 in the grand final.
Berryman said his team was “pretty easy to coach”.
“They listen well and take instruction well. When you tell them what to do you could see them do it on the field,” Berryman said.
Best for the Marlins across the weekend were Joey Walsh, Zac Fittler, Baxter Warner and Charlie Poynton.
Berryman said Walsh is a talented, skilful five-eighth who can tackle. “He’s also level-headed, smart, can lead a team. He’s the whole shebang.
“Zac has a bit of his old man [Brad] with that sidestep. Plus he’s a massive young teenager. He’s huge. I was playing him on the wing like Jonah Lomu.
“Baxter has good game all-round. Good ball runner, fast, good defender, safe. We played him in the centres and nobody got by him.
“And Charlie has speed to burn. He’s probably the fastest young kid I’ve ever seen,” Berryman said.
Play of the weekend involved three of the boys. It began with a chip kick by Walsh, followed through by Warner who kicked the ball, and kicked it again to see it bounce perfectly into the arms of Poynton who burned them all to score.
The grand final was not the team’s best game, according to Berryman, yet the boys “dug deep” and got the win 12-7.
“It was a hard and tight game in the final. We went a man down from a yellow card but the boys fought back and got the win.
“I’ve had the boys for a few years now and they’ve been in a good system here at Manly.
“They turn up and know what to do,” Berryman said.
The U/17s boys went down on the bell to Warringah Rats. Marlins coach Tua Marsters congratulated Warringah on their victory and said the final was a great day for rugby on the northern beaches.
“Like the Rats, the Marlins went into the tournament as underdogs.
“I’m proud of our boys. We played a fast, edge-of-your-seat style that most teams struggled to keep up with.
“The final came down to two groups of friends playing for each other in a ‘Battle of the Beaches’.
“There’s no better outcome than seeing the northern beaches represented in a state Cup final.
“Congrats to the Rats,” Marsters said.