The Hoey Moey Tooheys Coffs Coast 9s final at Geoff King Motors Park was played between Group 2 rivals the Coffs Harbour Comets and the Orara Valley Axemen who won 12-10. Nines rugby league 17 February 2018 Photo: Brad Greenshields/Coffs Coast Advocate
The Hoey Moey Tooheys Coffs Coast 9s final at Geoff King Motors Park was played between Group 2 rivals the Coffs Harbour Comets and the Orara Valley Axemen who won 12-10. Nines rugby league 17 February 2018 Photo: Brad Greenshields/Coffs Coast Advocate Brad Greenshields

Axemen start season with bang in 9s

ORARA Valley's promised improvement in 2018 seems to be more than just empty words after the Axemen won the Coffs Coast 9s tournament.

Orara Valley was strong throughout the day and topped off the good work with a 12-10 win over Coffs Harbour in the final.

In a twist of irony, the two tries Orara scored in the second half to secure the victory were scored by Buddy Hart and Liam Dunn. Two players who crossed over to the Axemen this summer from Coffs Harbour.

Orara Valley coach Col Speed said winning the tournament certainly isn't the be all and end all but it's a great step in the right direction toward seeing the club return to semi final football.

"It will be huge momentum. The thing for us is that three-quarters of our battles last year were mental, I think there was just inexperience and a few errors," he said.

"I think when you've got a culture that you want to turn around, this is ideal, the best way to start."

The way Coffs Harbour reached the final was certainly unusual.

Old Bar had qualified to play against the Axemen but prior to kickoff, the Pirates were nowhere to be seen as they'd already packed up and were headed back south down the Pacific Hwy.

New Coffs Harbour coach Brandon Costin was more than happy to get an extra game under the squad's belt and took many positives from the tournament despite losing the final. Especially the gains in fitness.

"Good rugby league fitness. You can run on the training paddock all day but there's nothing like good rugby league fitness," Costin said.

"I think just working on things that we want to implement in the 13-a-side game was a key for us today and I think in our first game we really implemented that.

"As fatigue set in so did errors but there were less and less and less each game. We got out of it what we wanted to." 

In the Ladies League Tag final, Sawtell again had to settle for second place like it did 12 months ago. The Panthers showed once again they will have a strong team in 2018 but was beaten by North Tamworth in today's final.

In the under-18s it was Keebra Park High who proved too strong for Lower Clarence.