Ipswich players learn from Super League 'baptism of fire'
SOUTH West captain Chris Mantell was far from disappointed with his team's winless performance at this year's Super League hockey championships.
Having shared in the regional side's 2013 and 2014 title successes, he knows how tough it is to make the annual final, let alone win it.
Despite the weekend effort being the Lumberjacks' lowest place finish in six years at the Super League championships, Australian Country captain Mantell was upbeat about the opportunity.
He was happy to play another leadership role, helping guide a largely youthful South West Lumberjacks team in a rebuilding mode.
"It will definitely be a good learning curve for next year,'' Mantell said.
"It was a really high standard competition as it always is.''
South West coach Adam Spry agreed, noting how his team's opening 8-2 loss to Brisbane Fury gave the promising Ipswich and Toowoomba players a level to strive for.
"It was a baptism of fire against Brisbane first up,'' Spry said.
"They are very well drilled team. They have been playing together for a long time.
"They have got basically three quarters of a Queensland Blades team in their side so they were very high class.''
Spry said a major difference between the Lumberjacks and other top regional centres was that elite quality.
"Every team has got some sort of a Queensland or Australian 21's player or an AHL (Australian Hockey League) player, or someone who has played at that level,'' Spry said.
"We were probably one of the only teams where we don't have those sort of players.''
However, Spry was full of praise for how the up and coming Ipswich and Toowoomba representatives improved every game being exposed to such opposition.
The Lumberjacks drew their final game 2-2 against Northern Storm today after a 5-4 loss to Wide Bay Thunder on Sunday night. The South West team's earlier losses were to Brisbane, Central Mudturtles (2-0) and South Coast (3-0).
"With the quality of players that we've got, I think they've done extremely well,'' the coach said.
Ipswich-based Ryan Smith was the team's leading goal scorer with three.
Other Ipswich players were goalkeeper Cade Banditt, Jarrod Brown, Trent Davison, Kai Douglas, Sam Morgan, Aaron O'Beirne, Nathan Smith and Tyler Spry.
Brown was rested on Sunday night with a hamstring twinge.
Mantell said the future looked promising for the South West men, who won the title two years in a row after the new format was launched in 2012.
A number of Ipswich players involved in the Super League champion- ships are expected to play in the Queensland Hockey Festival on the Gold Coast starting late September.
That tournament, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games venue, replaces the annual state open titles.
State of play
Men's champions: Brisbane Fury def South Coast 3-1 in the final.
Player of the final: Robert Bell (Brisbane).
Player of the tournament: Corey Weyer (South Coast).
Top goal scorer: Adam McClelland (Brisbane).
Women's champions: Brisbane Blitz def South Coast 3-2 in the final.
Player of the final: Tegan Richards (South Coast).
Player of the tournament: Kazzia Lammon (Northern Storm).
Top goal scorer: Savannah Fitzpatrick (South Coast).