Bring on finals: Wests ready to rock and roll
ONE Wests team had an ideal build-up to Ipswich's senior hockey finals starting this weekend. Another Magpies A Grade side received a timely reminder it's going to be a hotly contested play-off series this year.
The third-placed Wests men warmed up for Saturday night's knockout final against fourth-placed Norths by upstaging competition leaders Easts 5-1 at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
Easts and second-placed Hancock Brothers meet in Sunday's qualifying final at Raceview.
Hancocks finished their preliminary rounds with a 2-2 draw with Norths at the weekend.
Another major result in Ipswich's A Grade competition was the Wests' women suffering their first loss of the season on Sunday afternoon.
Wests lost 4-1 to Hancock Brothers after Hancocks had on Friday night been defeated 3-0 by Bellbowrie during their doubleheader weekend.
Wests' coach Brent Nicholls was far from concerned having secured top spot some weeks ago.
However, the recent resurgence of Swifts and Hancocks sets up an intriguing first weekend of finals in the women's competition.
Third-placed Hancocks tackle fourth-placed Norths in Saturday's 4.15pm elimination final before minor premiers Wests play second-placed Swifts at 4pm on Sunday in the qualifying final.
The winner of that game advances directly to the grand final.
"We'll be ready to rock and roll,'' Nicholls said.
"It should be a good final series.''
Nicholls said Wests' first loss "didn't matter'' as his players were waiting keenly to contest the finals having dominated the whole season.
"We've been treading water for a while. Our main focus is Swifts this weekend,'' Nicholls said.
"Hancocks put a lot more importance on the game than we did.
"We wanted to finish top two. That was our aim and that's where we are at.
"To lose one game all year, I'm really proud of the girls.''
Nicholls was confident his wife and co-captain Amy Nicholls would be fit to play this weekend after suffering a hamstring injury last month.
However, Jordn Office is out with a broken leg.
For the Wests' men, player/coach Greg Walker said beating the Tigers consolidated his team's recent run of promising form.
"Momentum is one of the biggest things you can have going into semi-finals,'' the experienced striker said.
"To have a 5-1 win over the top side gives us a lot of encouragement, an extra boost going into the semis.''
Having only lost one match in the final round, Wests are building well in a wide open battle for this year's premiership honours.
"Any of the four clubs can really win the competition with the way it's going this year,'' Walker said.
In their final hit-out before the playoffs, Walker was one of five Wests' goal scorers, along with Todd Watson, Jarrod Brown, Andrew Horrocks and Christian Coulson-Futcher.
Having scored 16 himself this season, Walker was pleased to see so many teammates contributing.
Walker is closely monitoring the availability of dual registered players Brown (also with Brisbane Easts) and Jay Pavitt (Brisbane Commercial).
He's hoping a 6pm final in Ipswich will allow Brown and Pavitt to play at Raceview this weekend.
State of play
Men's A Grade: Wests 5 (T Watson, J Brown, G Walker, A Horrocks, C Coulson-Futcher) d Easts 1 (T Woodford); Hancock Brothers 2 (R Smith, H Michel) drew Norths 2 (Z Profke, L Brown).
Women's A Grade: Bellbowrie 3 (M Denny, S Sue, M Doherty) d Hancock Brothers 0; Swifts 4 (J Dodd 2, R Finn, K Lengahan) d Norths 0; Hancock Brothers 4 (R Clarke 2, A Eleison, N Davison) d Wests 1 (L Hess).