It was an uphill battle for the Kempsey Saints women's football team at the 2019 TAFE NSW Women's State Cup in Newcastle over the weekend, and while they didn't make the finals, player-coach Amy O'Brien thinks they are better for the experience.
"The girls did an amazing job against some of the hardest teams around, several of the opposing players were part of the Matildas and the Women's Premier League," she said.
"Other coaches were praising our individual talent and were offering the girls positions on their teams if they ever move to Newcastle.
"We were the wild card entry, nobody knew what to expect from us, and from the feedback we got, everyone was impressed with how we played."
The Kempsey team received an invitation to the tournament after a successful application through a community nomination. The club and major sponsor, the West Kempsey Hotel, donated an additional $500 each to help fund the trip.
The Saints were one of four regional teams to receive $500 and free entry into the tournament from Northern NSW Football. They were included in the pool with Merewether United, the Thornton Redbacks and the University of Newcastle.
"Our first match against Merewether United, we went down 7-0. In our second game against the Thornton Redbacks, we lost 6-0, and our final match against Newcastle University ended in a draw. We were dominating that game; we just couldn't get points on the board," O'Brien said.
"I don't think the scoreline reflects how we played in those games, we may not have gotten the points, but the team played very well."
Now the competition is over, O'Brien and the rest of the Kempsey Saints are keen to try again next year.
"The team is definitely better for the experience, and if we are lucky enough to get selected again, the girls have already said they be happy to play again next year," O'Brien said.
"This time, we were just happy to have been selected, next time we will set our goals higher.
"Most of the girls were nervous about going up against such high calibre players, next time there won't be that nerve factor, we were discussing it at training, the other teams had good players, but they weren't as intimidating as we thought they'd be."
Upon their return, the Kemsepy Saints have the week off from the regular competition to rest and reflect. When they return to action next weekend, they will take on the undefeated Macleay Valley Rangers in the latest chapter of their rivalry.
"Last year we were minor premiers, and at the moment we are sitting on 4th, I'd say we are pretty well cemented into the finals," O'Brien said.
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