In a thrilling Koori Knockout final on the NSW Central Coast, Walgett Aboriginal Connections emerged as victors, ending a nine-year wait for the championship title. Despite an early lead from Wiradjuri Aboriginal Rivers, the tournament heavyweights Walgett displayed grit and determination, eventually prevailing with a score of 22-12. The event, held over the October long weekend, drew thousands of spectators, enduring steamy conditions.
Wiradjuri, featuring former Kangaroo and NSW Blue Blake Ferguson and Cronulla half Braydon Trindall, demonstrated promise with the first two tries of the match. However, a series of unforced errors opened the door for Walgett to turn the tide. Walgett, backed by Boxing Promotion Company No Limit and boasting Dally M Medal winners Ben Barba and Jack Wighton along with several NRL players and country footy stars, showcased their strength and expertise, securing a well-deserved victory.
Latrell Siegwalt earned the title of player of the tournament, a testament to his exceptional performance. Walgett captain and former Dragon, Raider, and Sea Eagle, Joel Thompson, described the win as "very special." Despite a slow start, the team regrouped and fought back, emphasizing the importance of resilience and team spirit in their victory. After some controversy earlier in the tournament, Walgett celebrated with immense emotion, lifting the trophy for the first time since 2014.
In the women's draw, Newcastle Yowies and Redfern All Blacks engaged in a tense battle, with the Yowies emerging victorious with a score of 13-12. The event, considered one of the best in the history of Koori Knockout, showcased electrifying matches and promoted grassroots football, highlighting the origins of many rugby league players. The Koori Knockout winners across various categories were celebrated, emphasizing the event's impact on the rugby league world and promoting indigenous talent.
2023 Koori Knockout winners
Mens: Walgett 22-12 Wiradjuri Aboriginal Rivers
Womens: Newcastle Yowies 13-12 Redfern All Blacks
U17 Boys: La Perouse Panthers 12-6 Bundjalung Baygal Warriors
U17 Girls: Northern United Dirawongs 20-4 Minda Sisters
U15 Boys: Mindaribba Warriors 18-16 Campbelltown Ghosts
U15 Girls: Newcastle Yowies 20-0 Bundjalung Connections
U13 Boys: Mindaribba Warriors 30-0 La Perouse Panthers
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Photo Courtesy National Indigenous Times
Courtesy National Indigenous Times