Rangers reach new level with trifecta of junior final glory
IPSWICH Rangers are anxious to look after and further develop their growing talent pool after one of their most successful junior rugby seasons in years.
Rangers players, officials, coaches and supporters are celebrating a trifecta of recent Division 1 success in the Brisbane Junior Rugby Union competition.
The club's under-12, under-13 and under-14 sides all won grand finals played at Meakin Park.
The Rangers under-12 side completed an unbeaten season with a 24-5 victory over Souths.
After just one defeat during the series, the Rangers under 13s beat Sunnybank 28-18 in their grand final.
The Rangers under-14 combination also downed Sunnybank - 29-8 in their title decider.
Club president and former player Rohan McPhail was delighted with the success which he said was due to a combination of factors.
That included implementing a new grading process to ensure juniors of similar abilities played in the same team.
"We've always had the ability to do it but we've never really decided to go down that path,'' the long-time Rangers supporter said.
As for three major successes in one year, McPhail was similarly upbeat.
"We've been competitive at that level but the last time we actually won a junior flag was about 2015 or 16. The ability is always there,'' he said.
"To do it in Div 1 is a bit of a feat (against the best Brisbane rugby clubs).''
While the Division 1 teams deserved praise, McPhail was also keen to acknowledge the club's other 15 juniors sides which played in various multi-divisional competitions this year.
With 245 juniors across the 18 divisions, Rangers gained a 20 per cent boost in participation, in part due to gaining some rugby league players.
"The key is to keep them at the club,'' he said.
"Our challenge now is to convert those 14 years into 15 years (teams) and then 16 years and then we can offer that complete pathway.''
That's why this year's formula was so positive.
"For us as a club, we approach it as developing skill for all children and it's easy to develop skills if they are playing with children who are like-skilled,'' McPhail said.
"That was more of the approach we took, moreso than saying as a club we need to win every division.
"It's a combination of things and this is the first year we did that.''
McPhail played hooker for Rangers senior sides between 1991 and 2000. He was also heavily involved with junior coaching for seven years before taking over the club presidency after a stint on the committee.
As the club participants and supporters enjoy the latest junior success, Rangers men's and women's senior teams are also well in contention for upcoming finals.
In the club's 52nd year, Rangers officials are preparing to host the Queensland Suburban Rugby Union Friday night Normanby Cup final on October 23.
The Rangers side is undefeated.
The Rangers women are heading for a Division 1 final showdown with Redlands after suffering their first loss to them.
Ipswich's improving Barber Cup team is also progressing well, being in fourth, in the Saturday competition.
Ipswich is also the venue for Barber Cup and women's semi-finals on October 10.
Before those fascinating finals, Rangers junior teams can reflect on their latest achievement before preparing for the 2021 season from late January.
Ipswich's under 12 team was unbeaten in their seven game season, scoring 303 points and conceding just 10 tries.
The team, mainly comprising Ipswich schoolboys, was coached by Blaise Cooper and assistant Hiwa Gregory. Janelle Polkinghorne was manager.
Rangers needed to beat second-placed Souths in the final round fixture to secure the title.
Rangers were forced to defend early relentless Souths attack close to the ruck before breaking out to a 14-0 half time lead.
Two more second half tries secured the 24-5 victory.
A feature of Rangers success was adapting their shortened season preparations due to the COVID shutdown.
The team was build around a skilled and mobile forward pack and a backline blessed with speed.
Some of the players had been with Rangers since under 6.
The under 13 victors were coached by Denis Albion and assisted by Darren Rasmussen and manager Melissa Albion.
Rangers had to beat reigning premiers Sunnyback to claim the title.
Sunnybank led 8-0 early before Rangers captain Josh Murray scored. The conversion by Tyson Walker set up Rangers created the foundation for the Ipswich team to dominate.
A scorching solo try by James Grey and another by his brother Josiah were also converted by Walker.
When Walker converted a well-worked try, the Rangers juniors maintained their 10 point advantage.
Ipswich's under-14 side also had to deal with Sunybank to secure honours.
The journey for the Rangers players started last year when Ipswich lost the grand final lby one point in the final minute of the game.
From February, a team was built, laying the foundation for future grand final success.
The Rangers side was co-coached by Paula Faapo and Hiwa Gregory.
David Parmenter was assistant coach and Anna Gregory was manager.
Faapo spent many hours meticulously planning structures, processes and training sessions, focusing on the development of a talented group of players in the western corridor.
In the final, Rangers scored three tries in the first half - two from centre Malachi Vaigalu and one from first 5/8 Dajuan Manese. Halfback Nathan Fraser kicked one conversion to set up the 17-8 halftime lead.
In the second half, Rangers number 8 David Leota drove over close to the line with Fraser converting.
From a well placed Manese kick, and a lucky bounce, Anthony Solomon scored Rangers final try to seal the 29-8 win.
The team's grand final victory was a fitting reward for the players and their parents who turned up week-in, week-out in a disruptive year of COVID-19 restrictions and condensed formats.