For the first time in history, Newcastle fielded three teams comprising of 23 players, which provided an added challenge as a captain before games even began. However, despite a lot of moaning (mainly from me), everyone was up and out of bed for 6am on the Saturday morning ready to take on the best the North has to offer.
"All we knew was that our first team had a shot at the final and we were going to do all we could to get there"
None of us knew what to expect from the other teams. Because of the nature of the sport, the turnover of players can be high; meaning the teams at the top can constantly change. All we knew was that our first team had a shot at the final and we were going to do all we could to get there.
Saturday morning started us off easily with two 13-0 wins over Leeds and Sheffield’s second teams which boosted confidence, however, the third game against York 1sts had us scared. It was already half way through the first day and we hadn’t faced a first team yet, never mind one that could match our skills and speed. We were worried that York, who had already played a tough match against Durham 1sts, would bring an intensity that we hadn’t had to deal with yet. Our worries were misguided. We comfortably beat them 12-4, completely shutting down their messy offence.
After facing yet another 2nd team, we moved on to Durham 1sts. The local rivalry would decide who would win the group and therefore who would progress to the semi-finals and get automatic qualification for Nationals. It was a tight first half and we all had visions of a sudden death game, which would have been our 3rd this season, as a club, against Durham. However, after a minor swearing outbreak from myself, we got our heads down and gritted it out to take the game, and the top spot, 6-3.
"It was a tight first half and we all had visions of a sudden death game, which would have been our 3rd this season"
That evening, we journeyed down to Manchester to spend the night in our vice-captain’s mansion which has a seemly endless supply of mattresses. 8 family size lasagnes were stuffed in the oven as we all congratulated ourselves for the day’s victories. The second team had won two games and the third team had improved and gelled so much as a team throughout the course of the day, so everyone was celebrating. The early morning had taken its toll though as everyone was heading off to bed around 10pm.
Certain of our qualification, the firsts only had a semi and a final to focus on all day. A three way tie in another pool had left last year’s national champions, Loughborough, stuck in the 5 to 16 triple elimination bracket, leaving newcomers University of Central Lancashire and Leicester, along with our long-time rivals, Leeds, with us in the top group.
The seeding left Leeds and us in the same semi final, a game which many had predicted to be the final. A long warm up, some icy drills in the street, and a heart-felt team talk prepared us to do something that none of us had ever done before; beat Leeds. We started strong, taking a 2-0 lead, however they quickly pulled it back and we traded blows until the last few minutes. We came out of the incredibly tense game 6-5 up and with every bit of our energy drained. We’d done it, we’d finally beaten Leeds and the best part was the disgusted look on their moody captain’s face as the final buzzer went.
"We’d done it, we’d finally beaten Leeds and the best part was the disgusted look on their moody captain’s face as the final buzzer went"
We watched our seconds become the highest placed second team in the region, beating a first team on the way, but with an hour to wait before the final but we weren’t feeling the pressure. We’d put so much into the Leeds game that a final against Leicester, who had looked unpolished at best, throughout the day, felt like a bit of anti-climax. Trying to stay focused, we approached the game like it was any other and slot in 3 slick points before they even had a chance. That’s when the complacency struck. Drops and throwaways on our part allowed them to even the score with only a few minutes left. However, we used our wealth of experience playing together to outclass them to take the regional title.