Bitterly cold but magic gold for Queensland's victors
HOCKEY: Seasoned Ipswich performer Sara Rogers had to brave bitterly cold conditions to savour her first national championship success as a player.
It was the former Australian Country captain's fifth attempt after previously sharing in runner-up results.
However, Rogers was delighted to endure this year's chilly but rewarding experience with many familiar teammates.
Queensland Country completed an unbeaten championship campaign with a 1-0 victory over NSW in Sunday's final in Shepparton.
"It was absolutely freezing. I've never been so cold in my entire life,'' Rogers, 32, said.
"It took us a few days to adjust.
"Some of the mornings it was sleeting as well. Most of the days it had max temps of 10 degrees.''
Apart from how well the Queensland players adjusted, Rogers said the breakthrough gold medal success was helped by having so many loyal players joining forces.
"It was the Ipswich and Toowoomba connection,'' she said.
"A lot of us have played a lot of hockey together for a very long period of time.''
The Queensland Country side included Rogers' Hancocks defensive teammate Natalie Davison and Wests' talent Jess Wilkinson, as well as a number of South West Queensland Lumberjills players who just missed making this year's Super League grand final.
Rogers said both Ipswich teammates played extremely well with striker Wilkinson later selected in the Australian Country under-21 team heading to Borneo for an international opportunity.
Although she missed out on national selection, Rogers was far from disappointed.
"It's good to see some of the younger girls starting to come through,'' she said.
"It's pleasing Jess and those type of players are getting a look in.''
Rogers had earlier won her first national title as a coach, after sharing in the Queensland under-18 girls' team triumph earlier this year.
In Shepparton, the Queenslanders opened the tournament with a 6-0 win over Victoria before beating Western Australia by the same margin and ADF 5-0.
Rogers said Queensland's round robin 3-1 win over rivals NSW was among the most satisfying performances.
"We felt like we were pretty dominant that game,'' she said.
The Queenslanders also outclassed South Australia 7-0 before a 4-0 win over ADF leading into the final.
"We were very dominant all tournament. We scored 32 goals and only let one in,'' Rogers said.
Ipswich also had a strong presence in the Queensland Country men's team that finished second. The men lost Sunday's grand final 3-0 to old enemy NSW.
The team included Hancocks' trio Blake Douglas, Jackson Willie and Sam Morgan.
Douglas, 20, and Willie, 22, were selected for future Australian Country trips.
Willie was Queensland's leading goal scorer with 10 during the tournament, continuing his excellent form for defending premiers Hancocks in the Ipswich competition.
The Queensland men started their two-week campaign with a 2-1 win over Victoria before beating ADF 3-1 and South Australia 4-3.
After a round robin 5-0 loss to NSW, the Queenslanders regrouped to beat Western Australia 5-2 and Victoria 3-1 in the semi-final.