OUR GOLDEN GIRLS
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
HERE'S a trivia question for all those tragics who think they know a thing or two about sport.
Which is Australia's most successful women's sporting team at World Cup level?
The cricketers are good, the Opals are now the basketball world champs and the netballers have a few titles to their name but if you guessed any one of these then you'd be wrong.
The Aussie women's touch footy team has gone undefeated for 19 years through 55 games for six titles. Even more impressive is the fact that during these 55 matches, the Aussie girls have scored 704 touchdowns while the opposition have managed to score only 42.
One of the stars of the last four campaigns is vice-captain Amanda Judd who returned from South Africa in January knowing that her final World Cup experience gave her a surprise thrill that she'll never forget.
The veteran of 50 Tests for her country was elected as a flag bearer in Stellenbosch and she can't wait to reprise the role this morning during the opening ceremony of the National Touch League Titles which get underway at the BCU International Stadium this morning.
"It was amazing, it something you don't really think about getting there in your career," the 30 year-old admitted.
"It was a bit of a shock but it's something that I'll never forget and I can't really describe the feeling."
Judd's fellow flag bearer in South Africa was highly respected administrator and former Australian representative himself Dean Russell.
Now the assistant coach of the national Open women's team as well as just being appointed the coach of the under 20's girls for the 2009 Youth World Cup, Russell says that the way the women prepared for South Africa and then played in the tournament was simply inspiring.
"The easiest way for me to describe it is the girls themselves got offered the opportunity to play in that Beach Football and that was a month out from the World Cup. Being involved with that for the last few years I know that last year, the year before and the year before that, the girls would've jumped at the chance, they'd be like 'Let's go' and play with the footballers and the exposure it gets but they just said 'No, we've got to win the World Cup'," he explained.
"From that moment on we knew they were focussed among themselves and were really switched on to make sure they go over there and win. I've been to more World Cups than I'd care to mention but I haven't seen a team perform in any division in a final like that.
"The World Cup was gone after two minutes and 45 seconds, it was 3-0 and you could tell by the body language of the Kiwi's that they were never going to get back into it."
Now coming down from the high of the World Cupp success, Judd is focussed again on creating success, this time on the familiar turf of Coffs Harbour's renowned Stadium surface as a member of the traditionally strong Sydney Mets team.
"We lost the grand final last year so we're hoping to go one better this year but anything can happen as it's a pretty strong tournament, so we'll just see how things are going come Monday," she said.
"It's getting tougher every year though as this year there's probably five teams that could win it whereas the last few seasons you could probably pick out two or three teams that are going to be there, so I think it's a bit of a lottery this year with five or so teams that can win it."
One part of that lottery is the local Northern Eagles team, in particular the Open Men's squad.
Many of the entertaining under 20's squad from last year have progressed through to the Open's ranks and although the Eagles aren't one of the favourites, Russell believes that they could raise a few eyebrows.
"It will be really interesting to see how they go this year," he said.
"At the 20's level, they've virtually been unbeatable the last few years and a lot of those kids skills transferred into the State under 20's team under Barry Jackson and they had a really successful State of Origin against Queensland last year and now they're stepping up to the Opens this time around.
"I'd love to see them keep playing their free flowing style and I think they'll shake a few teams up but the discipline of the game needed for Men's Opens compared to Men's 20's might find them out. They might take a year or two to find their feet but if they can keep together for the next couple of years, they can shake anyone up."
The NTL action gets underway this morning at the BCU International Stadium at 9.00am.
The Opening Ceremony starts at 11.00am. Play will continue all weekend with the semi-finals and finals to be played on Monday.