Grammar girls go for gold
INDIVIDUALLY a team of champions, and together a champion team.
Ipswich Girls' Grammar School's Uhlsport Cup-winning side took John McGrath's famous sporting adage and made it their own, in a comprehensive 4-0 win over Canterbury College.
Mirroring Ipswich Grammar School's grand final win in the same competition, the Stewart Drinkeld-coached girls struggled to find paydirt at first, but turned it on in the second half.
"It's great to see both Ipswich schools do so well," Drinkeld said of IGGS and IGS both winning their respective Uhlsport Cup competitions.
"At half time it was 0-0, we were dominant but couldn't execute. I wasn't concerned though, I was confident in the girls with the way they prepared themselves and their attitude going into the game.
"I had no doubts they could go on to win (after half time) and they did that."
Boasting five Queensland and one Australian representative, Drinkeld's side was laden with talent from the bottom up.
Now in his seventh year at the helm of the open football side, the IGGS physical education head of department said the Cup win was just-rewards for the hard work of the school's football program.
"It's pretty unusual to have that much talent in one school team," Drinkeld said of the representative players.
"It's something we've been building toward over the last seven years, we've had a number of good teams and each year we've slowly gotten strong and stronger.
"We've been super lucky in terms of timing with the girls we managed to recruit. A number of girls came down from Townsville to be boarders, while we had a great foundation already with some girls involved with (Western) Pride."
For Drinkeld, the most satisfying result from a dual-championship season was not the wins or representative selections, but the continued development of
"I take greater pleasure from the girls who aren't the best players at the start, but by the end you're saying 'wow' because they've been so dedicated and have taken their game to another level," Drinkeld said.
"Hannah Nichols was a surprise this year, she hadn't played a lot of football beforehand but the amount of improvement she made over the course of the season was amazing.
"She's been the biggest improver over the course of 12 months I've ever seen in a footballer. It was nice to see her make such a leap."
A big reason for the technical improvements of players like Hannah has been the training environment fostered by the team's representative stars.
"If you surround yourself with good players you have no choice but to improve," Drinkeld said.
"It's a really good environment to have the girls around, because the better girls push those that may not be making representative teams, and that has helped them make those teams the following year.
"From the school's point of view, this climate offers the girls a greater chance to improve themselves as players."
Looking ahead to next season, Drinkeld said the bar had definitely been raised following the 2017 team's achievements.
"The bar is set even higher now because with a win like that comes greater expectations," Drinkeld said.
"With that comes a bit of pressure, but we're retaining 10 girls in our squad so I expect us to do well again."
Drinkeld loses six starters next season, including Australian representative and player of the final against Canterbury College, Rahni Pritchard.
Team captain and First XI incumbent Giverny Kenman also moves on, and the coach admitted the impact of her departure would be felt.
"We lose six seniors, all of whom have been fantastic contributors over the course," Drinkeld said.
"Giverny Kenman has played First XI since grade eight - she was one of our captains this year and will be a massive loss to our football program. She's a wonderful student outside of football as well.
"When we look at the future and rebuilding, two key girls will be Elli Chapple our goalkeeper and another key player, Megan Stephens.
"The girls are involved with the (Brisbane) Roar, and we are hoping they can fill the leadership positions that are vitally important."IGGS First XI