All roads lead to Ballarat…
With the end of grading phase 3 upon us, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the significant accomplishments of the coaches and athletes of our Under 12s & Under 14s Girls Program.
For the second consecutive year we congratulate the Under 12.1.and 14.1 teams on securing a berth in the Victorian Championship (VC) level; but this year we also celebrate the achievements of the 12.2 team, who claimed a spot in VC this MUVJBL season. Also, for the second consecutive year, we applaud both the 12.1 and the 14.1 girls for qualifying for the National Junior Classic. To be eligible for an invitation to the National Classic, teams must finish in the top 4 of their VC pool at the end of grading phase 3 – definitely no easy task, and a sign that the younger section of our girls’ program is in excellent shape.
However, the fact that both our 14.1’s, led by Adam Kerr and our 12.1’s, led by Olympian Natalie Porter are in the top eight teams in Victoria in their respective age groups is not the most exciting part!
Before we get to the most exciting part, a little trip down memory lane to emphasise the gravity of the moment… In 1986 Frankston Bears and Chelsea Gulls merged to create the Bayside Blues, now known as the Frankston Blues (Chelsea left to reform the Gulls in 1995). In only the second year of existence the Blues 14.1 girls led by Chelsea stalwart Wayne Mills achieved the enormous feat of not only winning the Victorian Championship title but also qualifying for U14 National Club Championships, where the team finished in a respectable fourth place. I was fortunate enough to be part of this team, alongside current 14 2’s coach Zoe Fagan (nee Brothwell) and 12.5’s coach Rebecca Lanting (nee Cron).
As a club, we then had to wait another 15 years for a team to qualify for U14 Nationals (to my knowledge there has not been a Blues boys team qualify for U14 Nationals in our history). In 2002, the now Frankston Blues, 14.1 girls led by Gonzaga graduate Kelly Bowen not only qualified but almost won the U14 National Championship, finishing in second place. We have not had a Blues team qualify since, although we have had a few near misses. Back in 2009 our 14.1 girls led by current NBL1 star Stephanie Reid and fellow Buffalo graduate Courtney Wilkins, missed out by a heartbreaking one percent. Most recently, our 14.1 girls last year missed by one game.
So, in 32 years we have qualified twice for the U14 Club Nationals, but with a tiny bit of luck this number is about to increase to three! In order to qualify for U14 Club Nationals, teams must be top two in their pool at the end of grading phase 3. We are currently sitting in second place in our pool with 7 wins and 1 loss, equal with Kilsyth but with a slightly better percentage. When our 14.1 girls win their game tonight against Kilsyth, we will be celebrating having qualified for the 2019 U14 National Club Championships to be held in Ballarat in October! Good luck to all our Blues teams competing tonight, but in particular to Adam and our 14.1 girls! You can do it!! Ballarat here we come!
Kerryn Mitchell – Blues Under 12/14 Girls Coordinator