Forget forfeit, Easts will fight back as top club
HOCKEY: Easts Hockey Club president Paul Malcolm was understandably disappointed when his A-Grade team had to withdraw from their latest match in the Ipswich competition.
However, with 15 regular A and Reserve Grade players unavailable through injury, work, holidays and other commitments, he had no choice.
"It was unbelievable how many players we had out,'' Malcolm said.
Easts also had regular coach Adam Spry overseas, cheering on his wife Sam at the World Masters Championships in Spain.
However, club stalwart Malcolm was confident the Tigers would regain a competitive A-Grade side quickly.
"It's not ideal to forfeit a game right before finals,'' Malcolm said.
"But as of this weekend, all our troops are back on deck.''
That would be invaluable with Easts among the sides trying to stop defending premiers Hancock Brothers from running away with another title.
"The other three teams (Wests, Norths and Easts) are all even pegging but Hannies are the team to beat,'' Malcolm said.
"They are so fast and Sara Rogers (former Australian Country captain and respected A-Grade player) has got them running exceptionally.
"They are well-drilled and well-trained so they are going to be very, very hard to beat.''
However, Wests issued a timely challenge in the latest clash, only going down 2-1 to Hancocks.
The Hancocks A-Grade women also continued their bid to derail the defending premiers by drawing 2-2 with Wests in their latest game on Sunday afternoon.
Hancocks came from 2-0 down to set up another thrilling encounter in the senior finals starting on September 1.
Loyal Hancocks striker Robyn Clarke scored her team's first goal after halftime before Natalie Davison netted the equaliser.
"It definitely was a good result,'' Clarke said.
"I was really proud of the girls the way they came back in the second half. We did exactly what we talked about at halftime.''
After a goal drought at the start of the season, Clarke has been scoring more freely in recent weeks.
However, she's most pleased with how Hancocks are peaking for the finals, keen to match Wests when they meet again.
"We've been playing well,'' she said, in her fifth season with Hancocks.
"The last couple of games we've found our top form.
"We've scored heaps of goals and the team is getting closer, getting better.
"We have a good chance of getting Wests this year.
"I love playing with the girls. We get along really well.''
Swifts beat Norths 3-0 in the other A-Grade women's match.
As Easts' men rebuild for the A Grade finals, Malcolm was encouraged by the club's overall performance in this year's Ipswich hockey competition.
Easts are currently leading the club championships for the first time in more than two decades. A number of junior and lower grade senior teams are in grand final contention.
They include two under-11 boys teams (running second and third) and Easts under-13 and under-15 boys (both leading their divisions).
Easts' under-11 girls are also in the finals, along with senior teams in Reserve, R2 and A2.
Junior grand final day is September 8.
A-Grade men: Norths 3 won on forfeit by Easts 0; Hancock Brothers 2 (N Smith, K Jackson) d Wests 1 (A Horrocks).
A-Grade women: Swifts 3 (C Shaw 2, J Dodd) d Norths 0; Hancock Brothers 2 (R Clarke, N Davison) drew Wests 2 (A Kickbusch 2).