Navy Rugby Union has made its future intentions clear after generating a bow wave of momentum both on and off the field at the Australian Defence Force Rugby Championships, held in Canberra from 12-18 May.
Navy drove the Army men’s team from the championship throne they’d held for five years, under clear autumn skies and thundering applause from a large crowd in the stands.
The tournament was held in Canberra, following a successful bid to move it from Brisbane.
The atmosphere was electric due to the quality of the men’s and women’s squads for 2019, and there was nervous tension over the outcome of the final day’s games.
Both the Navy and Army men had dominated Air Force earlier in the week to each secure a spot in the final.
As the game got underway in a spirited and physical encounter, Navy harnessed the crowd’s positive energy and struck early against Army when Navy’s left winger, Able Seaman Eddie Tomsana, crossed the line.
With his arm stretched up to the heavens, Able Seaman Tomsana showed a glimpse of the strong self-belief he and his team had carried through the tournament.
A tough and experienced Army team fought hard to regain control, but the team in Navy blue lead from the front, maintaining and extending their lead with tries to Midshipman Jonte Heirdsfield, Leading Seaman Aaron Louden and Seaman Mitch Walton.
Sharing in the spoils were Able Seaman Corey Lee and Seaman Walton, who scored a conversion and penalty kick a-piece.
The final score was 30-20 and a historic victory was recorded for Navy Rugby Union against Army for the first time since 2014.
On completion ADF Rugby Union Patron, Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell, presented Navy Rugby Union captain Lieutenant Josh Friend the Championship Shield.
Seaman Mitch Walton was also acknowledged with the award for Best Male Player and Best Rookie of the tournament. However, he humbly downplayed the award saying that Navy’s success was due to the positive culture and the character of his teammates.
“Fifty percent of any game comes down to mental strength and trust in each other.
“This comes primarily from our jobs, and is vital to the success of Navy.
“As players, we just bring all of this across to Navy Rugby and everyone embraces the same ethos we use in our workplaces.
“So both teams just work,” Seaman Walton said.
“I think training hard twice-a-day helps too,” he added with a wink.
Although extremely pleased with the results, Lieutenant Friend said he was keen not to rest on the successes of the Championships.
“We are absolutely stoked to be Champions in 2019, but have much larger ambitions.
“We have a busy calendar planned in the lead up to what will be our penultimate challenge: the Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup to be hosted by the Royal Australian Navy in 2021,” Lieutenant Friend said.
Prior to the men’s final, the Navy Women fielded a record 17 new players in their squad, all eager to be involved with Navy Rugby and everything it has to offer.
Synonymous with the ‘Fighting Navy’ spirit, the entire team played gallantly and showed incredible improvement with a never-give-up attitude throughout the competition.
To Army’s credit, they dominated play throughout the game with great depth in experience and were worthy champions for another year.
Although not recording a win on the scoresheets, Navy Women’s captain Petty Officer Amy Carpenter was proud of her team’s accomplishments.
"The scoreboard results aren’t a measure of success of this team of wonderful women.
“The progress and efforts they put into every aspect of the competition was second-to-none.
“With many experienced players unable to be released from work this time around, I am excited about the depth and development of the team.
“It certainly paints a positive future for the Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union Women’s team,” Petty Officer Carpenter said.
The Women’s focus on development this year extended to activities off the field as well.
The squad took an hour out from training to share their skills and passion for the game by leading a coaching session with 100 Year 4 students at Gold Creek Primary School.
The success of the activity will have long-lasting effects for both the Navy players and students.
Navy women’s Rookie Player of the Championships and Gap Year participant Seaman Indiana Lewis said her first experience with Navy Rugby was incredible.
“I don’t think in many career athletes would be provided with such a professional and supportive environment.
“We were able to develop skills in leadership, teamwork and problem solving, while keeping fit by engaging in a sport we all love.
“The icing on the cake was the coaching clinic with the kids.
“Seeing the smiles on their faces and the respect they had for us as serving members and females playing rugby was second-to-none,” Seaman Lewis said.
Serving members who want to get on board with Navy Rugby can contact Director of Rugby, Captain Adam Allica or Head Coach, Lieutenant Jason Harrington.