Outsiders to champions: How patched together team conquered all before them

The premiership-winning Penrith Giants. Photo: Brooke Grosse Photography.
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From begging girls to play in the team to Grand Final triumph – this is the incredible story of how the Penrith Giants won their very first Premiership.

Earlier this year, the U16 Penrith Giants Youth Girls team were struggling to get a side together. They had four girls keen to play in January but needed a hell of a lot more signed up before the competition was due to begin.

Not only did the coach Mick Pearson, who was in his first year in charge, create a short promotional video to attract players via social media, he also hit the phones ringing his various contacts to try and recruit players to be part of his team.

Eventually the club, with the help of coach Pearson, managed to convince enough girls to field a competitive side.

After the Coronavirus shutdown delayed the start of the season in April, the AFL Sydney Juniors Western Sydney Youth Girls competition finally got underway in mid-July.

The Giants, which featured a bunch of fill-ins and a host of players who had never played AFL in their lives, hit the ground running. Despite various injuries, the girls dropped just one game during the nine-round season, qualifying for last month’s Grand Final in emphatic fashion.

“The girls had to beat their opponents, Wollondilly Redbacks, by 60 points and keep them to scoring no more than six points just to qualify for the Grand Final… we beat them 60-0,” Pearson told the Weekender.

The Giants then faced heavy favourites the Camden Blues in the decider on September 27 at Eden Brae Oval in Baulkham Hills.

While the Giants enjoyed an amazing season considering all the challenges thrown at them, no one expected a group of newbies to beat the high-flying Blues 57-41 on Grand Final Day, securing the club’s first ever title.

“I knew this team hadn’t been to a Grand Final before, so I just wanted them to experience that, but winning a premiership was the icing on the cake,” said Pearson, whose daughter Makena is in the team.

Proving he’s more than just your average footy coach, prior to the Grand Final Pearson spent close to $1000 making a music clip where he was the lead singer, guitarist and drummer to a song he wrote himself to pump the girls up for the decider.

“I ended up writing and recording an original song to rally the team in the week leading up to the big game,” Pearson said.

“It was played quite loudly just before the girls took to the field for their final warm-up drill to pump them up, and also for our opposition Camden to hear.”

While 2020 has thrown up plenty of surprises in the world of sport, what the U16 Penrith Giants Youth Girls team produced this season could be one of the most surprising yet.

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