Bury Tchoukball Club’s youngsters reigned supreme for a second year in the Tchoukball UK National Youth Championships. The club’s under 18s – Bury Dukes – and under 15s – Bury Earls - both left as national champions in their age group, with Dukes taking first place in the overall league structure. This year, the competition was bigger with teams from 4 regions of the country competing for honours across 2 age groups.
Both Bury’s teams featured players with national league experience and this told as they overcome three other schools and the junior members of Fareham Tchoukball Club. It was the Earls who started the brightest with a stunning display of free-flowing tchoukball against Cardinal Wiseman School. Both sides went the day undefeated beating Cardinal Wiseman, Fareham Youth , Woodrush Secondary School and Loughborough College before facing off against each other for the honour of finishing top of the league. It was the younger Earls players who were fastest out of the blocks with some slick switching and shooting from trio Ethan Page, Tan Sakpreechakul and Joshan Lally. Eventually the experienced defending of Jordan Ward began to make the difference while Tilman Bensiek and Abdullah Muhammad found gaps in the previously impenetrable defence of Niamh Farrelly. As nerves set in mistakes crept into the young Earls’ game and the Dukes ran out eventual winners 21-16.
Bury’s head coach Ian Parker said he was proud of both his teams.
"While the older guys in the Dukes used their experience to win, overall some of the play by the Earls was just superb. Their movement was of the level you see in the national league, let alone from a squad of 14 and 15-year-olds. Earls' centre George Bedford is still only eleven. All 15 players were exceptional and as much as I love seeing the senior squad pick up national titles to see the youth teams on the same path is even more special. If you don’t develop the youth in 10 years there won’t be anyone left to play the game so it was great to see the P.E. teachers and coaches from across the country giving up their own time to bring down the players."
Throughout the day spectators were treated to fast-paced exciting games, with many of the players entering the competition with very little experience of the sport. Cardinal Wiseman came second in the under 15 tournament, overcoming a tough start against the two Bury sides to grab wins against Fareham, Woodrush and Loughborough. Woodrush picked up two wins in the day beating Fareham, while their 13-11 victory against Loughborough was one of the games of the tournament, not decided until the final 10 seconds of the match. Fareham, the youngest team at the competition with an average age of 11, surpassed all expectations to grab a win in their first win of the game against Loughborough College consisting of 16-18 year olds. Loughborough came into the day with only a few hours of tchoukball practice but their performances and knowledge of the game improved dramatically as the day wore on. Despite not picking up a win, by the end of the day the Loughborough boys provided a tough test for both Cardinal Wiseman and Bury Earls.
Tchoukball UK Operations Director Richard Jackson paid tribute to all the teams that entered.
"It was a great tournament and to see so many new faces playing the sport is brilliant. I was especially pleased with new schools and colleges getting out there and competing despite little experience. It's exactly what my team are trying to achieve and time and time again we see the standard of play increase immensely on the day. We want to see growth each year so hopefully next year there will be even more teams from schools and clubs across the country."