'Exceptional effort' by young players
HOCKEY: The South West Lumberjacks are celebrating an outstanding long weekend of performances despite falling at the final hurdle.
The Lumberjacks men, featuring players from Ipswich and Toowoomba, impressed on their way to qualifying for this afternoon's Super League title decider at the State Hockey Centre.
Although the Lumberjacks lost 4-2 to Brisbane Fury, Ipswich regional coaching director Sam Spry was delighted with how well they finished their campaign, mentally and physically.
"It's exceptional,'' she said.
"It just kind of tops off and puts a real good positive spin on us selecting such a young team.
"It's exciting times and there's a lot of longevity in that team too.
"We're not just looking at here and now but we're looking 2-3 years in front of us.''
Fury were the best performed men's team in the round robin series, finishing on 28 points from five wins. The Lumberjacks qualified on 17 points with three wins and two losses.
The Lumberjacks had a terrific first day, beating Northern Storm 2-1 before winning by the same margin against the Central Mudturtles that night.
The South West men only lost 1-0 to Fury, through a stroke in a vital match, before going down 3-1 to Wide Bay Thunder on Sunday night.
But they snuck into the final after beating the South Coast Sharks 2-1 in their final round robin match today.
"They are a young side but they're playing some really, really nice hockey right now,'' Spry said.
"They didn't let the first day overaw them by any measure and they stepped up and played really good quality hockey.
"Like any team, you have a lapse in concentration every now and then and it can hurt you. But all things aside, it's been a team that has clicked exceptionally well right from the start being so young.''
The final shaped as a battle between the players and former Ipswich A Grade competition teammates Ken McCoombes (Lumberjacks) and Bruce Robertson (Fury).
The Lumberjacks went 1-0 up early through a Ryan Smith field goal before the Fury levelled before the end of the first period and took the lead in the second.
Fury headed into the halftime break up 3-1 before extending their lead by another goal in the third period.
Although the Lumberjacks scored in the final term through Jay Pavitt, it was too late to cause a massive upset.
Other players in the Ipswich contingent were goalkeeper Cade Banditt, Jarrod Brown, Kai Douglas, Caleb McCoombes, Sam Morgan, Zac Profke, Nathan Smith and Tyler Spry.
The Lumberjills, who finished fifth on the same points as Northern, also took positive strides for future success.
"All of the girls have really contributed exceptionally well,'' she said.
One of the standout players was Hancocks talent and former Queensland Schoolgirls representative Kelly McNamara, playing in the midfield.
"She has really held her own and certainly last night she came over more of a dominant player and really stood up when it counted,'' Spry said.
The Lumberjills opened the latest competition with a 0-0 draw against Northern Storm before losing 4-2 to the Central Mudturtles on Saturday.
In Sunday's matches, the Lumberjills only went down 1-0 to Brisbane Blitz before beating Thunder 2-1.
Today, the Lumberjills lost their final round robin game 2-0 to the South Coast Sharks.
The Ipswich contingent, along with McNamara, included Sara Rogers, Talicia Canty, Natalie Davison and Layla Eleison.
Queensland Country and state under 21 sides are expected to be named over the next week.
Queensland men's masters over 40 and 50 players will also be announced following their state titles in Cairns over the long weekend.