Incredible focus: Wests' teams keep 'breeding success'
ONE of Ipswich's most successful coaches in any sport is chasing four women's grand final wins and three men's major title-deciding victories in a row on Saturday.
However, for highly respected Wests' mentor Brent Nicholls, it's all about building club strength and promoting young talent which he knows "breeds success''.
In Wests' 50th season, the club has four teams in the Ipswich senior grand finals.
While Nicholls is coaching the Wests' A-Grade women and Magpies Reserve Grade men's combination, he's delighted to see the club also represented on senior finals weekend in A2 women and Reserve Grade women.
Chasing a remarkable record of achievement, the A-Grade women's side has only lost one game this season - to Saturday's opponents Hancocks. That was a 3-2 defeat just before the finals when Wests were without experienced defender Amy Nicholls and valuable striker Jordn Office, who had school commitments.
"Regardless of whether they are there or not, it was a game where it had no impact on the actual season,'' he said.
While the rare loss denied minor premiers Wests a shot at a clean sweep following mid-season and Combined Competition final triumphs, Nicholls said it was difficult to maintain that intensity for the whole year.
Wests responded in the major semi-final with a 7-2 win over their main challengers.
Far from easing off, Nicholls said his side was anxious to finish with another title at the Ipswich Hockey Complex on Saturday night.
"It's one of the most focused I've seen them,'' he said. "They are as ready as I've seen them.''
In past years, Nicholls had mixed thoughts on having a week off following a major semi-final win.
However, he said this year's short break was welcome to allow some players to recover from niggling injuries.
"The week off did help us really well actually,'' he said.
"Everyone is fresh and ready to go now.''
Nicholls expected to field a full strength women's side eager to null any positive start from Hancocks.
Despite a lot of talk being about how lethal former Australian striker Amy Kickbusch is, Nicholls praised his team for contributing to her 62 goal haul.
"She scores a phenomenal amount of goals and she scores some great goals,'' he said of his co-captain.
"She's an unbelievable part of our team and we're grateful and appreciative of the fact that she's playing for us.
"The good thing is while she scores a lot of unbelievable goals, she also gets a lot of goals at the end of good play.
"The build-up is what makes it.''
Nicholls also praised his defence which often didn't receive the accolades it deserved.
Reliable goalkeeper Tarni Iszlaub, stalwart Amy Nicholls, exceptional performer Jemma Payne, the loyal Emma Johnson, rising talent Gabby Nicholls and energetic co-captain Eden Jackat have been steadying influences throughout the year.
"It's been a combined effort and everybody that has come in to help out has stepped up to the role,'' Nicholls said.
Having a number of teenagers in a side can also provide some challenges in a grand final.
"With any group or any team, success really breeds success,'' he said.
"I guess they are more or less conditioned to really want to win and strive for that.
"On the other side of that, it can be a habit to lose.
"We're in a good spot and I'm happy where we are at.''
Tonight's senior grand finals at the Ipswich Hockey
7pm: A2 men - Hancock Brothers v Norths
8.30pm: A2 women - Wests v Thistles
Saturday's senior grand finals
10am: R2 women - Swifts v Hancock Brothers
11.45am: R2 men - Norths v Easts
1.30pm: Reserve Grade women - Easts v Wests White
3.15pm: Reserve Grade men - Easts v Wests
5pm: A-Grade women - Wests v Hancock Brothers
6.45pm: A-Grade men - Hancock Brothers v Norths