by callum dick
Football: South Burnett's budding football talent continues to shine on the representative stage, with five players recently returning from the Queensland under-15 Soccer Championships in Cairns.
Jessica Ryan and Taylor Watt helped guide their under-15 girls side to a remarkable bronze medal - the best performance for a Wide Bay side at the championships in nine years - while Luke Beutel, Joel Macri and Lachlan Montgomery were part of the eighth-placed boys team that bettered their showing from the previous year.
The tropical north turned on the heat for the visiting teams, and the championships proved to be a trial of fire for the Wide Bay sides with limited preparation under their belts.
In a 10-team format, and with just three training sessions under their belts, Wide Bay were given little respect by the traditionally more dominant football regions. But that would soon change.
With Jessica leading the line in attack and Taylor resolute in central defence, the South Burnett pair played a pivotal role in Wide Bay's run to the bronze medal.
Matched against the best defenders in Queensland, Jessica's pace and finishing ability helped her find the back of the net, as Taylor regularly stymied opposition strikers with her strength on the ball and defensive nous.
It culminated in a penalty shootout to decide the third-placed finisher, and to Wide Bay went the spoils in a nail-biting finish.
The boys had it a little tougher in their draw, with the lack of preparation coupled with the coaching strength of the metropolitan sides a difficult combination to overcome. Joel was a key target up forward, while Luke and Lachlan all combined to form a strong defensive partnership, with the latter making a number of crucial saves in goal.
In further good news, Luke also gained Queensland Country selection following strong form with SWQ Thunder.