Astute coach expects Easts to be in the mix
AFTER stepping back from representative coaching, Adam Spry was prepared to oversee two A Grade teams in this year's Ipswich hockey competition.
However, last season's Easts A Grade men's mentor will continue focusing on their development after the Bellbowrie women were unable to get enough numbers for the women's top division.
Bellbowrie will instead field a Reserve Grade women's side this season, meaning both A Grade competitions will have four sides.
While disappointed to see Bellbowrie drop out of A Grade, Spry was confident their Reserve Grade combination would be strong this season, hopefully building a foundation for a future return to top grade.
Spry said the Tigers men would be his primary role this year.
Senior player and Australian Country captain Chris Mantell is having a year off for work and family reasons.
His brother Daniel, another long-term Easts player, is hoping to line up when he can around his electrician work demands.
Dependable goalkeeper in past seasons Patrick Collingwood has left the club.
Collingwood is being replaced by exciting junior talent Caleb Davies, who played some A Grade matches last season.
Davies has come through the Ipswich junior system and represented the city's under 18 team at the state titles.
Spry was confident Easts would have a solid group of players to choose from, having recruited some from Toowoomba and UQ.
"We've got good solid numbers and we've actually picked up quite a few players,'' he said.
"Apart from Chris, all the regulars will be back.
"We're looking good.''
The Easts squad has been doing turf and fitness sessions in recent weeks.
Having taken on the Easts role for the first time last season, Spry was keen to help the senior men consolidate their A Grade spot. The Tigers withdrew from top grade in 2016 after a lack of numbers.
He's yet to name an Easts captain for the 2018 season.
As a noted tactician, Spry was cautious about reading too much into what other clubs have gained or lost.
"We're just waiting to see,'' he said.
"Everyone says the same thing at the start of every year: 'We've lost this many players and we can't fill a team' and then all of a sudden they have got the strongest team in the competition.
"Until everyone gets on deck and we see what other teams have got, I'm yet to know how we'll go.
"But I think we will certainly be consistent. We've got some heavier bodies in terms of stronger adults playing this year.
"We've got more senior players playing.''
Spry hopes this year's A Grade men's series is similar to last season's wide open race to the final.
"I'm sure it will be a pretty good comp regardless,'' he said.
"It was a really good comp last year, really even, which is nice.
"And that's where you want to be . . . in a comp where you don't have one team dominating and each week, teams can knock each other off.''
While he's unable to coach a Bellbowrie women's side in A Grade, Spry said he would also help Swifts if they needed his input.
His daughter Ashley is playing for the Bluebirds in the new season starting March 16.
Tigers set to roar
EASTS club president Paul Malcolm has every reason to be excited about the 2018 Ipswich hockey season.
The Tigers have four senior and six junior teams ready to play. That includes a side in the new R2 senior competition and girls teams in under 11 and under 13.
"I reckon it will be the strongest our club has been in 15 to 20 years,'' Malcolm said.
Malcolm has taken on a player/coaching role for the Easts R2 combination. The focus of the new "bridging'' competition is primarily to help under 15 players prepare for higher levels.
The other three senior teams are in A Grade, Reserve Grade and A2.
Malcolm was delighted to see 32 players involved in Easts' A Grade trial last weekend.
The four Easts boys teams are playing in Ipswich's under 11 (two sides), under 13 and under 15 competitions.