Defending champions ignite finals charge
HOCKEY: Having scored more than 100 goals this season, the defending premiers are on target for another Ipswich A-Grade grand final.
After a 7-1 victory over a determined Norths side on Sunday night, Wests have added reason to be excited about this weekend's showdown with Hancock Brothers.
Multiple premiership-winning coach Brent Nicholls has plenty of respect for Hancocks after last year's grand final rivals pushed them in games during the season.
However, Nicholls also backs the core of his women's side which returned and have matured after winning last year's grand final.
"I'm very happy with where we are at,'' Nicholls said, preparing for Sunday night's 5.30pm game that will decide the first team through to this year's grand final.
"I can't fault our preparation. We're ready to play.
"It's always a good contest against Hancocks but we'll be on song.''
Hancocks finalised their regular season commitments with a 3-1 win over Swifts at the weekend.
However, the attacking prowess of the competition leaders was highlighted again in their latest victory.
Wests' goals came from five different players - two each from Amy Nicholls and Amy Kickbusch - along with successful strikes from Emma Johnson, Eden Jackat and Jade Close.
Nicholls praised Norths for their effort despite the one-sided scoreline.
"Norths played a lot better than that and we took our opportunities,'' Nicholls said.
"It was actually a really good game of hockey to be involved in and an awesome lead-up game, especially coming into a major semi.
"I thought last night was one of the better performances we've had.''
Nicholls said Wests goalkeeper Tarni Iszlaub had a solid game, repelling Norths along with the Magpies' seasoned defensive formation.
"Where we got them was when we countered, our forward line are very potent,'' Nicholls said.
"We've scored over 100 goals for the year. That's our biggest asset - the way we can counter.
"Teams came at us and put us under pressure and we've got good defence that can handle that very well and strikers that can finish.''
With no injury concerns in his team, Nicholls welcomes the Hancocks challenge.
"They (Hancocks) have a lot of talented players and it's going to be a very tough game but I can't be happier where we are at,'' Nicholls said.
"We're all on board and hopefully we're timing our run into the finals pretty well.''
The men's elimination and qualifying semi-finals are also being played this weekend.
Minor premiers Hancocks tackle second-placed Norths in Sunday night's qualifying semi-final after both teams won their final regular season matches.
Hancocks overran Easts 6-3 with Norths continuing their late season revival with a 5-2 win over Wests.
Easts and Wests battle for survival in their elimination semi-final on Saturday night at Raceview.
Junior finals in all grades started over the weekend.
Among the semi-final winners were Wests' sides in C-Grade and D-Grade boys, and C, D and E-Grade girls.
A-Grade men: Norths 5 (Z Profke 3, D Jeffrey, S Profke) d Wests 2 (C McCoombes, M Westphal); Hancock Brothers 6 (J Willie 2, N Smith, R Smith, D Rew, C Chappell) d Easts 3 (T Woodford 3).
Elimination semi-final: Saturday (7.15pm) - Wests (3) v Easts (4). Qualifying semi-final: Sunday (7pm) - Hancock Brothers (1) v Norths (2) at Ipswich Hockey Complex.
A-Grade women: Hancock Brothers 3 (S Rogers, L Eleison, R Clarke) d Swifts 1 (M Reilly); Wests 7 (A Nicholls 2, A Kickbusch 2, E Johnson, E Jackat, J Close) d Norths 1 (E Alchin).
Elimination semi-final: Saturday (5.30pm) - Swifts (3) v Norths (4). Qualifying semi-final: Sunday (5.30pm) - Wests (1) v Hancocks Brothers (2).