St Patrick's Primary School sends huge number of kids off to be state representatives

From left: Toby Batten, Rielly Laverty and Cohen Welsh
From left: Toby Batten, Rielly Laverty and Cohen Welsh

Is there something in the water in Macksville?

Whatever the reason, the kids at St Pat's are having an outstanding year of sporting achievements and it doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Just this week they sent two more kids - Charlize Jones and Ruby Flanders - to compete at the girls' state touch football championship in Mudgee.

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Footy wunderkinds Toby Batten and Rielly Laverty have also just come back from the boys' NSW Primary Schools Sporting Association's (PSSA) Touch Football Championship in Wallsend where they represented Polding (Northern NSW Dioceses).

It was a gruelling three days comprising 13 matches against some very athletic Sydney sides. In spite of the talent down south, the Polding boys finished first at the end of competition rounds, notching 11 wins and a draw into their belt.

Rielly injured his calf during the fifth game on the first day but soldiered on for his team against medical advice.

"I was running off the field and I just heard a 'pop'. They recommended I not play in the next couple of games, but I did 'cos it was a State carnival so I really wanted to give it my all," he said.

"I wasn't happy 'cos I couldn't play as good as I wanted to - I couldn't play the last game against Sydney North which all the selectors for the State rep team were at."

Rielly was also disappointed with the situation, believing he'd done himself in just days before his Under 13s AFL team was going head to head against Bellingen in the grand finals, and his Bowra Tigers league team were facing off against the Roosters (Toby's team) for the last spot in the Junior Group 2 grand finals.

"It's my good kicking side and everything. It sucks, I've never had an injury on this leg before - it had to happen now didn't it?" he said.

But he did play in the grand final, and even kicked a goal for the Lions who went on to be crowned premiers. The Tigers, however, were not so lucky.

Cohen Welsh, who, like Toby and Rielly is a bit of a sporting all-star, plays with Rielly in the Tigers and missed having his teammate in the preliminary finals with him: "Yeah it wasn't real good 'cos he's a really good line defence - he's also a good goal kicker."

But back to Wallsend: With three out of the four links sick by the last day, and Rielly not performing at his optimum, the Polding team went down in the semifinals against the eventual joint-premier Hunter side.

There was a silver lining in spite of the loss: young Toby was such an outstanding asset to the Polding team he was awarded player's player.

"I was pretty happy," he said. "I felt like I played better than I ever have - it's at a higher level and there was so much talent around us that I just tried to match it."

"I thought he played good enough to make the state team," best mate Rielly said.

He was overlooked by the state selectors, but he needn't feel bad - the lad has had a dream run this year.

Earlier this month he travelled up to Queensland after being selected to represent NSW in School Sports Australia's 12 years and under Rugby League National Championship.

"Just getting to play for NSW was the best moment of my life so far," he said.

The carnival was opened by league legend Wally Lewis, and Toby was a tad starstruck.

"It was pretty cool to meet him. He was so humble," he said. "I got a pic with him, he asked what position I was playing and I shook his hand."

Toby was chosen as utility for the team, meaning he was used in a variety of positions over the championship. It's not an easy feat to do that, and it speaks wonders of Toby's natural adaptability and capacity to read the game.

"We had moves and I had to learn them all," he said. "The coach didn't want me in one position, he wanted me everywhere because that's how he saw I could play."

Catch a glimpse of Toby in action in this livestreamed video (from about 2.20 onwards)

Rielly made the pilgrimage to see his mate play at Suncorp Stadium.

"He set a try up after the bell against Victoria," he said. "The buzzer went, he played on and ran it five metres."

"I had two players in front of me, I saw there was noone on the wing so I just passed it out and we scored," Toby said.

NSW ended up winning that game.

But they came third overall, with the two Queensland sides battling it out in the grand final...lucky NSW won the State of Origin this year.

Cohen has also just returned from a national-level competition, with silver medal proudly in hand.

What makes his medal all the more impressive is that he was training for the School Sports Australia Swimming Championship in a 17 metre hydrotherapy pool, with the larger Macksville pool closed since April.

It was the first time Cohen was selected to represent NSW, after missing out on a place at the nationals last year by two milliseconds.

This year he categorically earned a spot in both the 50m individual freestyle and backstroke events for his age, coming third in each at the PSSA state comp by a whole second.

"In the long-distance races you have to be fit and know how to pace yourself. But in the short distances, you've just got to put everything in," he said.

"You need to be fast off the block to get that tiny bit in front of everyone - if you can hold it, that's good, it means you've won."

He placed sixth in the backstroke with a personal best time of 32.53 seconds, and tenth in the freestyle.

"It was pretty scary racing up against this one dude who was 5 ft 9 and built like a tank," he said.

His freestyle times also earned him a place on both the 4x50m freestyle and medley relays too. And he buried his nerves to try once more for a medal.

His team just missed out on bronze in the medley relay, so it was all riding on the freestyle.

"In the relays you're a bit more hyped up because you're not just doing it for yourself, you're doing it for your team," he said.

The buzz propelled him through the water and Cohen recorded a personal best time of 28.71, and his team earned themselves the silver.

Cohen said it would be a dream to eventually make it to an Olympics, but said he wouldn't mind playing professional footy either; he was selected for the Polding rugby league team alongside Toby and Rielly earlier this year.

For Toby, it would be the pinnacle of his life to represent NSW in a State of Origin, and for Rielly, he's keen on a spot with the venerable Melbourne Storm - his favourite NRL team.

With cricket in the Summer, and basketball in between, these three St Pat's boys are mind-bogglingly busy, and none knows what they would do with themselves if they weren't playing sport.

Good thing, then, that they come from a place which supports the growth of macadamias, bananas and champion athletes.

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