Hooper boosts settled Hancocks combination
THE Hancocks women are as settled as they can be preparing for a new Ipswich hockey season.
Their exciting young players are back, being guided by a committed leadership group including Sara Rogers, Caitlin Sippel and Justine Parkes.
"When the chips are down or we need a bit of energy, they take their turn at stepping up,'' coach Brendan Eleison said of his senior players.
In his third year as coach, Eleison is also pleased to see former Australian Country player Jade Hooper joining last year's grand finallists.
After a year off playing, Hooper has been training with Hancocks.
"She's already fitted in nicely, which is good,'' Eleison said.
"She's a quality player so it's good to have her on board.''
Hooper comes into a side rich in speed and endurance. Regulars returning include Kayla Tierney, Natalie Davison, McNamara sisters Kelly and Miranda, Elyse Smolenski and the reliable Robyn Clarke.
The coach's daughters Layla and Abby recently made state teams.
After winning the 2012 grand final - for the first time in 33 years - minor premiers Hancocks had a terrific season last year before losing the grand final 2-1 to Swifts in extra-time.
"It was a really good consistent year,'' Eleison said.
"We were probably the form team for most of the year. It just came down to the grand final and a really good goal from Swifts to win the game.''
The ever-positive coach expects his team to learn from the loss and press ahead.
"We've got to keep evolving as a hockey team,'' he said. "And keep playing a good contemp- orary style and then make the adjustments to try and keep a step above the opposition. And win the games that count. We do that most of the time.''
With Swifts and Thistles combining in A grade this year, the women's competition will be back to a five-team format.
"We are pretty settled,'' Eleison said. "We've had a couple of training runs now, pretty well got most of the squad back in training.''
The first round of matches are scheduled for next weekend.