They beat the Hunter, they beat the Mid North Coast, they beat the Highlanders of Gordon.
In the semi-final they came from behind to beat powerful Eastwood.
And then, in the grand final, they fronted none other than local rivals the Manly Marlins. And they beat them, too, 12-10 on the bell to take out the NSW U/17s sevens championship at Forster on the weekend.
And it was all enough to make their coach Todd Marks tear up.
“It’s like an ‘80s beer commercial, they said you’d never make it.
“It’s a victory six seasons in the making. It’s about resilience, fight and unity built up over many years together on the rugby field.
“These boys, this team, stuck together against bigger, stronger more ‘acclaimed’ players and teams to reach their long-term goal.
“And now they’re state champions.
“I got a bit choked up thinking about the journey they’ve had together to get here,” Marks said.
Warringah’s player of the tournament was Savelio Tamale but everyone contributed across the weekend, according to Marks.
“So many times our guys won the clutch moments. Whether it was try saving tackles from Seven Hazar or Luka Monnock, or Tom Livingston winning the race to the ball on the siren, or game-changing turnovers by Ted Whelan, you could see their desperation and fight and the Warringah Spirit shining through,” Marks said.
Rats captain Henry Mann said his team “played for each other”.
“It made the win even more special, to do it with your mates after all these years,” Mann said.
Manly Marlins coach Tua Marsters congratulated the victors 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.
Marks said his team’s story is one of local boys who stuck together after years of being “man-handled” by bigger players.
“They’ve beaten super teams who cherry-picked the best players from different league teams and union teams.
“It shows that a team the work for each other will always beat a team of big reputation individuals,” Marks said.
Australian rugby needs more players like the Rats U/17s, added Marks.
“Making a rep pathway at 14 and 15 is a great achievement but it shouldn’t define your rugby future.
“What Australian rugby needs is a few more players like these boys, who’ve had knock-backs and hardships and have had to fight for their achievements but still continue to play the game for the right reasons.
“I hope these boys share many more victories and character defining moments as mates on and off the footy field,” Marks said.
Mann agreed – and immediately set his eyes on the future.
“The job’s not done yet, we want to go back-to-back with our whole squad and win the Open State Championships next year,” Mann said.
Elsewhere the Warringah Rats U/15 boys took out the state plate final, beating the Central Coast on a countback after a nail-biter that finished two tries all.
The U/15 plate final is the same pathway the U/17s took on the way to winning this year’s title.
Marks said a lot of work has been put into the Warringah Juniors over the last few years “and we are starting to see the fruits of this with some recent championship wins”.
“Add to that a well-defined pathway into Sydney’s strongest Colts setup at the club and hopefully these boys will have a lot more successes together.
“The message is stick together, it builds a more cohesive resilient team and makes the victories more rewarding,” Marks said.
The night before the finals, Marks posted this message on this team’s WhatsApp group chat.
“You are all great players, but that won’t win it for us, our point of difference is we are long term rugby mates. It’s our cohesion, familiarity, combinations and relationships that is our advantage. Play for each other, work hard and fight for everything tomorrow with your mates by your side and we will end up winners. Let’s be the side we have always promised to be. Rest up, believe in yourself and trust your team mates and let’s make a noise tomorrow!”
The state U/17 sevens title winning Warringah Rats were:
- Aiden Flynn
- Brogan M’Crystal
- Henry Mann
- Jackson Lill
- Lachlan Marshall
- Luka Monnock
- Mitchell Ell
- Savelio Tamale
- Seven Hazar
- Ted Whelan
- Tom Livingstone
- Tom Sheehan
- Ziggy Barry
Coach: Todd Marks
Assistant Coaches: Mick Barry and Preston Cruickshank
Manager: Suzie Ell
Vs Hunter 14-5
Vs Mid North Coast 36-12
Vs Gordon 17-14
SF Vs Eastwood 15-12
GF Vs Manly 12-10