IT was a tough but fruitful weekend for the Blue Lake Knights, as they faced the reigning premiers Naracoorte Jets in round six of the Limestone Coast Rugby League season.
The Knights suffered a 38-16 loss in what was dubbed the State of Mind clash.
The NRL was in attendance for a mental health workshop on Friday night at the South Aussie hotel, before the big games on Saturday at Malseed Park, the new home of the Knights.
Knights president Brenton Hodge said the workshop was well attended.
“It was a really good interactive workshop,” he said.
“It was a little bit confronting at times, but well run by the NRL.
“All of our lads got behind it and Naracoorte Jets were present as well, so it was good to see the two South Australian clubs coming together for such an important issue.”
Four games were originally set down on Saturday, but the Horsham Panthers had to forfeit, leaving the Warrnambool Raiders without a contest.
However, a women’s game went ahead, along with strong Gunditjmara Bulls who ran rampant against a short-staffed North Warrnambool Warriors.
The Warriors could only field 10 players, but still made the trip across to be part of the big day.
The Knights and Jets rounded out the day’s play in what was expected to be an emotional game of rugby, paying tribute to those who have been impacted by mental health issues.
Hodge said it was a tough encounter, which he expected.
“Our game was exactly what we expected,” he said.
“We came out and scored an early try which woke the Jets up.
“They came back strongly from that and put a few tries on us before we went into the half time break.
“After the break we came out and got another try, but they were just too strong in the end.
“They are an exceptional team, they are well drilled and come together for each other.
“A lot of them have been playing Union or League in some capacity in their home country.
“They have come over here and hit the ground running and it really shows on the pitch.”
Knights president Brenton Hodge said the game was played at a frenetic pace, with each team desperate to get their hands on the inaugural State of Mind shield.
He said the presentation itself was extremely emotional for both sides, with the Bulls and Warriors staying after their game to offer support.
“It is really good in this league to see we have fostered a culture where the teams play hard on the field, but do not take anything off it,” Hodge said.
“Strong friendships have been formed across all clubs.”
The day saw plenty of people through the gates at Malseed Park to watch the competition for the first time at home this season.
Combined with the Knights’ sponsors’ day, Hodge said all went well.
“It was really exciting for us,” he said.
“West Gambier footy club got behind it and I think the spectators would have been happy with the standard of League they saw.”
The venue itself was another highlight of the day.
It was the first time the Malseed Park ground had been unveiled for the season and Hodge said it was a “fantastic venue”.
“West is a premier facility,” he said.
“It was really exciting to get there and see the ground set up and ready to go.
“To have access to all the mod cons that come with such a well-run footy club was exceptional.
“The pitch was in prime condition and everyone stuck around and wanted to be part of it which was excellent.”
State of Mind medals were handed out for the best on ground in each game, with the women’s honour going to Jessica Quinlivan, Reihana Heremaia claiming the Bulls v Warriors medal and Lou Morunga in the Knights v Jets match.