At half time, 2-0 down in the National Touch League over-45s grand final, playing coach Mandy Moore took charge.
Her charges in the Hunter-Western Hornets – players from across the Hunter region and Moore’s region of Western – were getting frustrated at not getting the run of play, of not having umpiring decisions go their way.
However, Moore’s cool head cut through the heat of the huddle, telling the side to focus on what they could change themselves.
They went back out with cooler heads and fresher legs and drew the score level just before the final siren – which meant overtime of a special sort: drop off.
Drop off is starting play with six on-field instead of seven, and every two minutes a siren blows and a player has to be removed from the field by either side.
When a side scores, the opposition has one final roll of the dice to score in reply, which if successful sees play resume as normal.
So the Hornets and Sydney Scorpions – the side they were up against in the final – stared with six, and then dropped to five after two minutes.
Then four. And then three.
And they won.
It was a nail-biter, it all goes so fast.Mandy Moore
“It was a nail-biter, it all goes so fast,” Moore – who is from Orange – said of the grand final.
“It was really exciting and made all the training worth it.”
Moore and fellow Orange player Cathy Goodlock had had to travel to Newcastle to take part in training, as had two Parkes players in Sue McGrath and Fiona Lovett.
Moore has played with a lot of her teammates from Saturday’s grand final for 10 or 15 years, and was happy to take on the coaching role.
This was Moore’s first time playing-coaching at the top level, and while she’s done it at other levels Nationals is a whole different kettle of fish.
“There’s no time to stop and think,” she said.
“I was very happy to come away with the title.
“We bombed three or four tries last year against the Scorpions last year … and I said to quite a few people that ‘I’m not coming home without that title’”.
The Hornets finished on top of the ladder in their pool, playing six modified games after the opening day of competition was washed out.
To make up for it, teams played three 30-minute games of touchdown turnaround on Thursday and Friday, of which the Hornets won three and drew one.
Moore said the shorter games felt more difficult.
“You can get to touchdowns in a minute so with less time you had to be on song the whole time,” she said.
“That’s what saved us in the final actually, those extra 10 minutes let us regroup and get back into the game.”
Orange had two other players representing the Hornets, with Wayne Hill taking part in the men’s over-40s Hunter-Western side which lost to the Sydney Scorpions 10-6 in the grand final.
The Hornets only lost the one game outside the grand final from their seven games, and the Hornets proved too good in the decider.
Moore’s son Ryan took part in the open mixed side which finished fourth in a league dominated by Sydney Rebels and South Queensland Sharks.