By Russell Bennett
The Pakenham Eels Rugby League club made history last Friday night, with its under-17 girls tag team claiming the club’s first ever premiership.
There were three grand finals hosted by the Pakenham Eels on E. Gunton Oval at the Cardinia Recreation Reserve.
While the North West Wolves claimed the women’s Tag premiership over the Altona Roosters 36-24, Pakenham had two sides featuring on grand final night.
The gallant under-14 girls tag side was beaten 28-8 in its decider by the Waverley Panthers, but lost no admirers in the process.
Though the Eels essentially trailed on the scoreboard right throughout the game, they fought back to finish with a hugely respectable total in what was the first grand final appearance for most of the girls.
This season marked the first that Friday night League tag was run, with the Cardinia Shire Council paying for the lights to be tested at the Cardinia ground so that the Eels could host home games there.
For the first time ever, the Eels fielded three female teams – the under-14 girls Tag, the under-17 girls Tag, and senior women’s Tag.
The weekend also marked ‘Women in League Round’. This served to add even more significance to the history-making occasion.
The Eels’ under-17 girls Tag side stole the show with a thrilling four-point victory on Friday night over the Waverley Panthers, 16-12. Though the Eels led for much of the contest, there was only ever really one try separating the two sides.
Late in the second half the Eels had around half a dozen defensive sets on their own try line, and Waverley scored with around three minutes left on the clock – squaring the ledger at 12-12.
But there was still plenty of drama yet to unfold.
Straight off the tap restart, the Eels went straight into a set play and returned serve with the final try to seal the match, four tries to three – 16-12.
The Eels have taken to girls Tag by storm this season.
One player in particular, Paige Kenworthy, played in the under-14 girls tag grand final on Friday night, then backed that up with the under-12s’ final round of the season on Saturday, before then playing at half-time of the Melbourne Storm game at AAMI Park.
Some of the Eels’ under-17s players have been with the club since its inception in 2016.
For their side to take out the grand final against such a quality, proven side like Waverley was an incredible accomplishment.
Cardinia Shire Council Central Ward councillor Collin Ross was there to watch it all unfold.
In other Eels news, the second division men’s side defeated Frankston on Saturday afternoon 14 to 6, with the Eels making their way through to the major semi-final where they’ll play local rival, the Doveton Steelers.