Forget the cold weather, these Ipswich rivals are hot
HOCKEY: If Hancock Brothers and Norths meet in this year's Ipswich men's A-Grade grand final, it will be a classic showdown of speed, youthful enthusiasm and sharpshooting.
Even on the coldest night of the year, the long-time rivals still produced some hot hockey in their latest 3-3 draw.
Although both sides had players away on Queensland Country duty or with other commitments, Saturday night's duel showed Hancocks and Norths are on target for another title decider next month.
Norths captain Steven Ihle hopes that is the case.
"Exactly,'' he said, having shared in Norths' recent A-Grade and Reserve Grade grand final appearances.
"When we are all clicking and moving the ball around, we are going to be hard to beat.
"Hancocks are the team to beat that's for sure.
"It will be a good final series.''
In blustery conditions on Saturday night, Norths were without regulars Jake Thornton, Luke Randle and Kaleb Christensen.
Hancocks lined up minus Queensland Country trio Willie Jackson, Blake Douglas and Sam Morgan and regulars like Dean Pavitt and Hayden Michel, who is recovering from ongoing injury.
Despite the key omissions, Ihle was encouraged to see Norths' young guns Riley Profke, Caleb Doyle and Regan Baxter backing themselves when given valuable A-Grade game time.
The senior player said the Devils were progressing well heading towards the finals.
"We had a mid-season slump but we're coming back good again now,'' he said. "Just trying to get some rhythm, our formation again.''
Having been with Norths for 10 years, the 27-year-old midfielder/inside said most pleasing was "the way the boys stick together''.
"In the end, when we were down, the boys dug deep and found the equaliser,'' he said of the latest game.
Hancocks' first goal scorer Zac Hoyland Meaker said his side was also gaining momentum after winning the recent Combined Competition and Ipswich mid-season finals.
"It was pretty good,'' he said.
"Full credit to the boys, we played hard but just couldn't put away the opportunity (to win).''
Hoyland Meaker said a solid hit-out with Norths was ideal for the defending premiers coming up the finals.
"Norths are always a good contender and when we play at full strength, it might be a different story but it was a good game nonetheless,'' he said.
Hoyland Meaker, 22, has been with Hancocks in recent seasons having previously played with Bellbowrie.
"It (the feeling in the team) is always good,'' the electrician said.
"We are all here for each other so I think that's why we are a good team.''
Saturday night's match featured two players certain to make an impact in the finals series.
Norths' lethal corner converter Zac Profke nailed another hat-trick with his super strikes.
After a scoreless first quarter, Profke put the Devils 1-0 up before Hoyland Meaker's well-timed field goal in the third quarter.
Profke added his second in the same period of play before Hancocks speedster Ryan Smith also stepped up to the mark again with two goals.
Smith's final strike was sheer class. He dashed down the left side of the field, leaving himself the most acute angle to score. But his superbly-timed shot made it just inside the right post.
Profke's hattrick with two minutes to go tied up the scores again.
In the other A-Grade men's clash, Wests kept in touch with the top two by beating Easts 6-0.
In the latest women's top grade games, unbeaten defending champions Wests outclassed Swifts 9-0 on their 50th anniversary weekend.
Co-captain Eden Jackat scored five goals.
Hancock Brothers accounted for Norths 3-2 in Sunday night's game.
Ipswich's under-15 Coulter Shield boys teams made the final at Raceview on Sunday, losing 4-0 to Brisbane.
The Ipswich boys earlier had a 0-0 draw with Toowoomba before beating Gold Coast 4-2 in the annual series.