The Independent Girls Schools Sports Association (IGSSA) is made up of around 30 independent schools in NSW and ACT. It is among the largest Saturday school sports competitions in Australia, and the majority of the schools are based in Sydney. PLC Armidale send down two hockey and two netball teams each year to compete. We caught up with Trent Donaldson, Head of Sport and PLC Armidale and the teams to find out more.
As country competitors, PLC Armidale have a 7 hour bus trip – leaving Armidale at dawn and often stepping straight off the bus and onto the field.
The Friday game is followed by two more on Saturday. This year the senior netball team only had 10 minutes’ rest before facing the challenge of their second game on Friday.
“The best fun about IGSSA would have to be the trips down on the bus with all the girls,” said Sophie Davidson of the senior hockey team. “I have definitely gathered a box full of memories over the years from these trips. They allow for the girls to subtlety build up excitement for what is about to come.”
The teams are often required to play their 7 rounds of competition over 2 weekends, which is physically and mentally draining. PLC Armidale senior hockey is gaining quite a reputation as the team to watch. The team has consistently performed well at IGSSA, and for the last two years they have been joint premiers with PLC Pymble in division 1A, the top division of IGSSA. This is quite an achievement for the small country girls’ school. The Sydney schools have a much greater pool of students to select from – most being schools of some 2,000 students.
“I find it challenging to be the under-dogs, because we come from a small country school that consists of 300 girls, when their classes consist of 300 girls,” grinned Sophie Davidson.
The reputation of PLC Armidale on the hockey field now means the opposing schools to see the 1A draw all hoping to draw PLC Armidale in the second Saturday game – that way, they will be tired. This year proved that this was the best time to play PLC Armidale. Being their final game for the weekend, they experienced their only loss for the season, losing 1-0 to Abbotsleigh. And for those present, it was obvious the physical and mental drain that the girls were feeling playing their fourth game in a matter of 18 hours.
“Win or lose, our team is a strong family,” said Jessica Gilbey, team captain. “We are tightly connected and support each other on and off the field.”
“The teams constantly amaze me with their demonstration of enthusiasm and pride,” beamed Trent Donaldson. “The IGGSA season is physically demanding and each member demonstrates passion and commitment to their sport, ensuring they are well prepared and ready for anything. While the loss against Abbotsleigh was disappointing, it gave the team a goal to focus on as they prepared over the following four weeks for the finals.”
The IGSSA Netball teams, both junior and senior, have also enjoyed great success this year. For the first time in 8 years, the senior team reached the finals, and it is the first time both senior and junior teams made it together! This year has possibly been the first time that the netballers outnumbered the hockey girls on the bus to Sydney.
The netball semi-finals were played at Pymble Ladies College, and the senior team were the first to play, playing against Roseville.
“It was a very close and exciting game,” said Anna Caldwell, PDHPE teacher, “tight defence, amazing intercepts, and the PLC shooters didn’t miss. The roar of our large crowd of supporters was deafening in the final minutes, cheering the PLC team on to win 21–19. They made the grand final! There was celebration in the air, as if the netballers had won the World Cup.”
“It feels very satisfying when we win a game. You can tell by how our team celebrates, showing good sportsmanship,” said Jess Gilbey. “When we step off that field, the celebrations start, and the smile that is painted across every girl’s face makes us feel happy and satisfied with ourselves about how we performed during the game.”
The junior team faced Pymble in their semi-final game. They played the best game of their season. For the first half, it was goal for goal. Pymble strengthened in the second half and won the game. There was not a sign that the junior team had lost. They held their heads up high; they knew that they had played well and were proud of what they had achieved.
“Losing gives you that extra motivation needed to come back stronger,” said Sophie Davidson. “We gain more motivation to train harder – a goal to fight to the end and work as a team and come out with a positive result.”
The senior team played the Grand Final against Kincoppal Rose Bay. Our girls started strong and were 6 – 4 up after the first quarter. The game picked up pace and intensity, and it was goal for goal. The second half saw Kincoppal come out strong, eventually beating PLC 29 – 15.
For a small country school, PLC Armidale is truly holding their own in the city competition.