Uni-Norths Owls Junior’s Alumni Talent Shines Through in 1st Grade Match against Vikings
In a highly anticipated clash between 1st Grade RD13 and the Vikings, Uni-Norths Owls team list included an impressive number of past players from Uni-Norths Owls Juniors. Whilst not the result Uni-Norths had hoped for, there is plenty like about a performance developed from the junior program through to Premier grade rugby with undoubtedly more to come.
Out of the starting XV for Uni-Norths, an impressive seven players had previously donned the Uni-Norths Owls Junior jersey. Notably, six of them had experienced the thrill of competing as a team in the ACTJRU 1st XV Competition Semi-Finals back in 2019.
Sam Mickelson, Chris Mickelson, Zion Going, Issy Vaili, David Kirk, Shane Mass, and Josh Reis have been a part of the Uni-Norths Owls community since they were youngsters and now feature in the 1st grade side.
Uni North Owls 1st Grade coach Lachlan Creighton said, ”Creating a nucleus of home-grown talent has been a focal point over the last 3 years and with 6 of the 7 players under the age of 22, it’s a great story of what’s to come. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching several of these players since they were 15 / 16 and seeing them develop into strong young men and leaders within our club is a proud moment”.
Cohesion analytics play a crucial role in sports teams, and Uni-Norths’ U18s team from 2019 is a prime example. The trust and understanding developed by younger players during their time as juniors have translated at the senior level. Their ability to communicate, coordinate, and execute plays is evident in the player’s performances throughout the grades. The cohesion and familiarity developed during their time together as juniors visibly supports the foundation for their performance on the field.
Despite the eventual 39-12 defeat at the hands of the Vikings, Uni-Norths displayed moments of brilliance, particularly in the first half, thanks in no small part to the cohesion and understanding among their former Owls Junior players. The two tries scored and conversion against tough opposition were a testament to their determination and the skills honed over years of playing together.
Of the closeness of the group, 1st Grade Captain Sam Mickelson said, “We want to build on the connections formed during our junior years and create something special with our long-standing friendships”.
One standout player from the Round 13 match, in particular, was Ben Dalton, Uni-Norths’ Openside Flanker, whose exceptional performance earned him the well-deserved title of Brodburger Player of The Round. Dalton’s contribution, which included 2 tries and 9 tackles, exemplified the synergy and collaboration within the team.
Uni-Norths Owls can take pride in their junior development system as it continues to produce talented athletes who thrive at higher levels of competition. The presence of so many former Owls Juniors in the 1st Grade team highlights the success of grassroots initiatives and the importance of investing in development pathways.
As the season progresses, Uni-Norths Owls looks forward to building on the cohesion and talent showcased by their former juniors, fostering a strong and unified team that will undoubtedly leave a mark on the Canberra club rugby landscape.