The Baulkham Hills Girls 16s made history at the 2023 NSW Junior State Cup in February, as the first junior team to win seven consecutive State Championships.
The Baulkham Hills Girls 16s have won back-to-back state championships since Under 10s in 2017.
It is no easy feat winning seven consecutive titles, however, take a group of young, tenacious players who are committed to each other, and you will create one of the most entertaining teams to watch.
Coach, Ben Ellis could not be prouder of his team – putting this incredible achievement down to their unwavering determination and work ethic.
“I’ve never met a group of girls collectively who have a willingness to train like they do,” Ellis said.
“Early on we had a group of girls that weren’t as skillful as a lot of teams we’d come up against, so we identified that for us to be successful we had to outwork everyone… Then we could just slowly chip away at increasing their skill sets,” he said.
Of the 16 players in the 2023 State Cup team, there are four girls who have been a part of all seven championships – Waiaria Ellis, Nadelle Harrison, Aaliyah Soufan and Georgia Bezzina, with many others having played in five or six.
Over the years, Ellis has always stressed the importance of a healthy team culture and is confident that the one they’ve created is the biggest reason for their success.
“We always keep reiterating to the girls that comps are not won on the field, they’re won off it,” he said.
“We just try and create an environment where all the girls get along and enjoy each other’s company… From there I feel playing the game is easy,”
“I think the Whanau (Family) environment we’ve tried to create has really helped,” he said.
From a young age the girls adopted a rugby league-like game style that quickly separated them from other teams.
“When we took over, we were just there as parents of a team that needed a coach – we didn’t have much experience ourselves in the game of Oztag so we could only really coach them with what we knew,” Ellis said.
“We just started coaching them like footy… We wanted our girls to play a style of Oztag that replicated rugby league,” he said.
Watching this bunch of girls develop over the years into the players they are today has been extremely special for Ellis.
“It’s the reason we coach… To hopefully have an impact on the girls whether it’s big or small,” he said.
“You don’t really have a lot of time to reflect on it, but to think we’ve had some of these girls from 9 years old… when honestly it was like watching paint dry – running around in each other’s pockets, no passing, just one out runs… To now, not needing any structure, playing free flowing tag, running plays, it’s honestly awesome to watch,”
“The best thing about it though, is watching them grow from little girls, into awesome young ladies – I think that tops everything,” he said.
2018 – Girls Under 11s2023 – Girls Under 16s
Ellis praised the efforts of parents and believes their commitment over the years has played a big part in the consistency of the team.
“We’ve had a core group of girls play a lot of these tournaments, and I think the commitment the parents make, to make sure everything runs smoothly is overshadowed,” he said.
“We ask a lot from the players as we prepare for these tournaments but we also ask a lot more from the parents… The financial burden is the biggest part,”
“As a parent myself I understand how much these tournaments cost, so without the help and commitment from all our parents over the years, we definitely couldn’t have been so consistent,” he said.
With daughter Waiaria in the team, the championship wins have been even more special for Ellis – sharing moments of success and watching her grow along the way.
“Yes, it’s been very special… To me though, what’s more special is watching her grow and develop as a player and person, with her friends, having fun and playing a sport they love,”
“Having a little bit of success along the way, and being able to share that with her and her teammates is the icing,” he said.
Senior Australian Region Champions, the East Coast Dolphins have made a generous donation of their $2000 prize money to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Respiratory Department.
The East Coast Dolphins were crowned Region Champions following the wide success of their teams at the 2022 Senior Nationals tournament in November.
Consisting of Sutherland Shire (Cronulla), South East Sydney (Souths), Engadine Heathcote, Northern Sydney and Northern Beaches senior associations, the Dolphins region were awarded with $2000 prize money.
On behalf of the East Coast Dolphins committee, Jodi Lehmann, from Sutherland Shire Senior Oztag, commented on the reason behind their choice of charity.
“We chose the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation as it’s one that’s close to our heart… we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to give back to a charity that has directly helped players within our Dolphins community,” Jodi said.
“We appreciate everything this charity does to help and support young children,” she said.
The Respiratory Department at the Sydney Children’s Hospital (SCH), Randwick provides care to children with a wide range of respiratory conditions.
The department work tirelessly to support these children and their families, while striving to find cures for rare lung diseases so that young people can live their best lives.
The donation from the East Coast Dolphins will be used to support the department’s ongoing work, helping to fund vital equipment, provide programs, enhance staffing and support new research initiatives.
“Many of the conditions that the respiratory team at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick treat are invisible, yet have a huge impact on the lives of our patients and their families – attending school or day care, going on school camp or participating in sport,” a representative from SCHF said.
“From all of us here at SCHF we would like to thank the incredible generosity of the East Coast Dolphins Oztag team for their donation to the respiratory unit at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick… Thank you for going all in for kids’ health,” they said.
SCH Randwick representative pictured with $2000 donation cheque
The East Coast Dolphins generosity will have a real and lasting impact on the lives of sick children and their families, and will help to support the ongoing work of the SCH Respiratory Department.
To make your own donation to the SCHF, please see below.
Junior Australian Region Champions, the West Sydney Tigercubs have donated their entire prize money to two charitable organisations – The Starlight Children’s Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The West Sydney Tigercubs, consisting of Nepean, Hills Bulls and Norwest Junior associations, dominated the 2022 Junior Nationals tournament, where seven of their teams were crowned champions.
On behalf of the Tigers committee, Stuart Hartley, Nepean Oztag Licensee, addressed the group’s decision to donate to these organisations.
“Our decision to support these charities is their direct relationship with children,” Stuart said.
“We’d also like to thank Australian Oztag for the opportunity to support these charities through the Championship prize money,” he said.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation (SCF) is a non-profit organisation that aims to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families during their time of need.
It provides entertainment, education, and support services to children in hospitals and communities across Australia.
“A huge thank you to Oztag for your very generous donation, we really can’t thank you enough,” Stacey, a representative from the SCF said.
“Know that your support really helps Starlight to bring fun, joy and laughter to seriously ill kids and their families because happiness really matters!” Stacey said.
SCF representatives pictured with ‘Thank You’ certificate
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) on the other hand, provides accommodation and support services to families with seriously ill children.
The organisation operates a network of houses around the world, providing families with a home away from home during their child’s treatment.
“On behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities Greater Western Sydney, it is absolutely heart-warming to see your generosity surround our families,” RMHC Fundraising Coordinator, George Tsokos said.
“When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, it impacts the whole family. This is why your donation is so important… You give them a place to feel safe and supported when they need it the most… Thank you for making an everlasting difference,” George said.
RMHC Greater Western Sydney representatives pictured with $1000 donation cheque
The donation from the West Sydney Tigercubs proves the positive impact that sports can have on the community – the act of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others.
To make your own donation to the SCF or the RMHC, please see below.
St George Junior Oztag have for long encouraged the development of young referees, with recent competitions proving the increasing popularity among females.
St George Junior Oztag (DragonTag) have a remarkable 14 female referees officiating their Junior competition at Scarborough Park on Thursday afternoons.
Aged between 13 and 15, plus two over-18-year-olds, these girls take to the field with confidence, enthusiasm, and a shared passion for the game.
St George Oztag Licensee, Michelle Anderson, who has been around the game for 24 years, has seen firsthand the growth in female involvement, particularly refereeing.
“Our game has encouraged female participation since it started, by creating Women’s and Mixed divisions… Our female players love playing the game and it’s great to start seeing our female participants becoming more involved in many aspects,” she said.
Anderson puts this growth in female referees down to many of them playing Oztag at a representative level, as well as the relaxed environment of the game.
“By playing representative tag, they have had more opportunities to learn and understand the rules. This has given them confidence to give refereeing a go,” she said.
“Their love of the game and the environment around our game has encouraged them to want to be more of a part of it… refereeing for them is enjoyable and a great way to earn some money,”
Anderson is hopeful that by seeing females officiating games, more young girls will be open to giving refereeing a go, regardless of whether they play at a Representative level.
St George DragonTag have make a distinct effort to encourage their players from a young age to try refereeing and ensure they receive the necessary training in order to feel confident when taking the field.
“I am very involved at ground level. I get to know my players and watch and support all teams at Representative level… I have spoken to our players from early on to encourage them to have a go at refereeing,” Anderson said.
“We offer free Theory & Practical training courses prior to the commencement of our competitions in August/September every year,” she said.
St George DragonTag is one of many associations encouraging the development of young referees, knowing very well that without them our competitions cannot go ahead.
Australian Oztag reached out to three of St George DragonTag’s wonderful female referees, Charlotte Teplicanec (14), Nadia Debbo (13) and Elizabeth Rigg (22) and asked them a few questions about their experience refereeing.
What do you enjoy most about refereeing?
Charlotte: I enjoy refereeing because it gives me an opportunity to learn and grow a greater understanding of the game and get a different perspective of the game as a ref rather than a player.
Nadia: I enjoy refereeing because I love the game of Oztag. Refereeing keeps me fit as I have to run around during the game to make sure I watch the players so I can make the correct calls. I also love teaching the new young players the rules of the game as some have never played before.
Elizabeth: I think I really enjoy seeing the kids improve from week to week as well as the joy it brings those playing.
What skills have you learnt from refereeing?
Charlotte: I have learnt how to communicate with players and make calls whilst under pressure and it has given me confidence in my calls.
Nadia: Refereeing has taught me leadership skills , to be assertive , how to work well under pressure and how to handle stressful situations such as when parents or players criticise calls that I make.
Elizabeth: I’ve learnt better communication skills and assertiveness. I’ve also learnt the rules in better depth.
Do you think these skills have helped you as a player?
Charlotte: These skills have helped me as a player as I’ve become clearer with communication to my teammates and call plays whilst the defence is putting pressure on us.
Nadia: The skills I have learned as a referee have helped me as a player to have more respect and patience to all referees when I am playing and to communicate better with my teammates.
Elizabeth: These skills have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the small rules that most players don’t know about. I’m also able to communicate to my teammates in defence better.
AO encourage all young players or those interested, to give refereeing a go. Contact your local association for all necessary information on how to get involved!
Norwest Oztag Licensee, Robert Hutton was awarded Oztag’s 30-Year Anniversary accolade for his Contribution to the Game.
In September, Australian Oztag held a Gala Dinner to celebrate 30 years of Oztag.
Almost all licensees from across the country were in attendance, as well as Hall of Fame inductees, former and current Australian representatives and many others who have a contributed to the game over the past 30 years.
It was a night of great recognition and celebration for the Oztag community, whereby special accolades were handed out for Longest Serving Players and an honorable Contribution to the Game.
Unfortunately, the recipient of the Contribution award and his wife, were unable to attend on the night – Norwest Sydney and Blacktown City Oztag Licensees, Robert and Glynis Hutton.
Last Thursday, Australian Oztag General Manager, Bill Harrigan visited Robert at Norwest Oztag, and was honoured to officially award him with his ‘Contribution to the Game’ plaque.
“It was unfortunate that Rob and Glynis could not attend the dinner but I thought with the magnitude of the award, it needs to be presented to him personally and he was keen to have his shorts back,” Harrigan said.
Robert has been part of the game since its establishment in 1992, when he played in the first ever competition at St George.
30-years later, Robert still has the first ever pair of Oztag shorts – a valuable piece of the game’s history. He kindly lent them to Australian Oztag for display at the Gala Dinner, which was of great appreciation.
Bill Harrigan (left) alongside Michael Buettner (right) displaying the first pair of Oztag shorts at the 30-Year Gala Dinner.
Not only has Robert contributed to the game as a player and administrator, but he has been recognised as a man committed to building the game from a grassroot level so as many people as possible can enjoy the game he loves.
‘Contribution to the Game’ Award Overview:
Service duration:1992 – Present
Played in the first ever St George competition
St George Representative (Men’s 30s, 35s and 40s)
Norwest Representative (Men’s 45s, 50s and 60s)
Started Norwest Sydney and Blacktown City Oztag in 2002 and still runs it, 20 years later.
Congratulations Robert, and thank you for your years of service to the game.
Competition numbers have skyrocketed for Newcastle Junior Oztag, as they cater for 98 teams this summer season.
When Competition Coordinator, Rhiannon Howard took over Newcastle Juniors in 2015, they had roughly 12 teams. This current summer season, they have an outstanding 98 teams registered.
The Newcastle Junior Oztag competition kicked off last Thursday 13 October, at Smith Park Broadmeadow, with divisions including Under 6s – Under 16s Boys and Girls.
Jumping from 50 teams in 2021, Rhiannon is thrilled with the growth of her Newcastle Juniors – putting the rise in numbers down to word of mouth and the dedication of her committee.
“I’ve had many parents give me great feedback saying how well-run the competition is and everyone is talking about playing Oztag at schools, along with other winter sports using Oztag as a way to keep their sporting teams together in the off season,” Rhiannon said.
“Our committee also works hard to ensure the competition is always ran smoothly, so they have also been a massive help in the recent growth of the competition,” she said.
Image Source: Newcastle Oztag Facebook page
Rhiannon has grown up around Oztag, as her parents, Jo and Brett Howard have managed Newcastle Seniors since 2001. Starting out with 17 teams and now having 140, they’ve shown firsthand what it takes to run a successful competition.
“With Mum and Dad running a competition, I understood what hard work it was to get a competition up and running,” Rhiannon said
“With their Senior competition being so successful, that became my aim as well and I’m very proud of myself and the hard work I’ve put in to this competition, along with the help from our Newcastle Oztag committee and Mum and Dad,” she said.
Every season, Rhiannon sets a goal for the number of teams she would like to have registered and without fail, exceeds that objective year after year.
This summer season being no different, Newcastle Junior numbers climbed to a starling 98 registered teams.
“This year I was aiming for 50 teams and the numbers just kept rising every single day,” Howard said.
“Unfortunately, I had to knock some teams back due to not having any lights on our fields,” she said.
Newcastle Senior Oztag are currently the largest competition in the Hunter Region, so it is great to see that same interest filter through the juniors.
“Every year more and more kids are talking about Oztag… Since many kids are now playing Oztag in their school sport, they are enjoying it so much and can’t wait for the next competition to start up,” Rhiannon said.
In terms of representative potential, Rhiannon anticipates that with more kids playing at a local level, there will be more interest for next year’s State Cup trials.
“We are hoping to take away some very competitive rep teams to State Cup next year with the talent we have running around at our Newcastle Competition,” she said.
2022 State Cup – Newcastle U14 Boys2022 State Cup – Newcastle U10 GirlsImage Source: Newcastle Oztag Facebook page
Moving forward, Rhiannon is determined to continue developing her Junior competition and gain the resources necessary to cater for numerous divisions.
“I’ll defiantly be aiming to play over two nights and have A & B divisions in all age groups – at the moment I have them in two age groups,” she said.
“I would love to be as successful as Michelle from Dragon Tag and also have some lights installed on our fields so we can accommodate both seniors and juniors over various nights, without having to knock back teams,” Rhiannon said.