Wests striker Greg Walker tries to stop an attacking move by Norths opponent Brent Blake during last Saturday’s A-grade match. Wests won 4-2.
Wests striker Greg Walker tries to stop an attacking move by Norths opponent Brent Blake during last Saturday’s A-grade match. Wests won 4-2. Claudia Baxter

Must-win for game for Hancocks

THEY’RE getting closer, pushing the competition pacesetters and even scaring them.

But Hancock Brothers have a major hurdle to clear before launching another shot at the premiership.

After losing Sunday’s mid-season final to Swifts in extra-time, Hancocks have to beat Norths on Sunday to secure second spot for the Ipswich women’s A-grade finals.

Norths are one point ahead going into the final game before the playoffs.

Hancocks coach Daniel Mantell was encouraged by his team’s latest performance – taking defending premiers Swifts 16 minutes into extra-time before finally losing 4-3 at Raceview.

“They are a quality side. They are hard to stop,” Mantell said of Swifts.

“In the end, we probably should have won it.

“At 3-1 (up) we just let it slip. You can’t defend a game against Swifts. You can’t ride a game out and expect victory.

“It was a good lesson.”

It took a strike by former Hancocks player Kristin Litzow to break the deadlock with both teams down to five players under the extra-time drop-off rules.

Swifts coach Brendon Smith said Hancocks gave his team a “little scare” but he knew his side would battle to the end.

“I’m not overly concerned,” Smith said.

“We created enough opportunities in normal time to put plenty of goals away.

“To get back from 3-1 down with not long to go was a really good effort.

“As soon as it got to drop-offs, I thought we had the speed and the fitness to control the ball and dominate.

“But full credit to Hancocks. They played well.”

Swifts’ mid-season trophy success adds to the team’s minor premiership and sharing this year’s Combined Competition (Ipswich and Toowoomba) grand final title with Rangeville.

“We’re happy,” Smith said, expecting a full strength side for Swifts’ grand final defence.

“We’ve got a few new faces from last season and they’ve filled the gaps that were left.

“We’re on par with last year. We’re lucky to have that youth and experience.”

While disappointed with Sunday night’s loss, Mantell said it was the closest his team had got to Swifts this season.

“We were right in it,” he said, hoping Hancocks can make another grand final.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to play Norths (at 5.30pm on Sunday) because they’ve been playing such good hockey.

“To really put it to Swifts at the weekend means they’ve got that confidence.

“The whole team played well.”

Left half Erin French has been exceptional and goalkeeper Pam Edmunds kept her team in the game on Sunday. Jade Hooper (two goals) and centre half Justine Parkes are working well together in the middle.

Parkes will have a vital role in the final series with experienced campaigner Lisa Morgan withdrawing with knee soreness.

Fullback Caitlin Sippel is in doubt having popped her shoulder.

Mid-season final

A-grade women: Swifts 3 (Anne-Marie Callow, Kirsten Mackay, Diane Casey) drew Hancock Brothers 3 (Jade Hooper 2, Sara Rogers) in normal time. In the 16th minute of drop-offs (five on five), Kristin Litzow scored for Swifts to give Swifts the mid-season trophy.

Defending premiers Swifts are also the minor premiers and share this year’s Combined Competition grand final title with Toowoomba side Rangeville.