Ipswich stalwart inspires vital victory
IT'S been a while since Wests' stalwart Greg Walker netted four important goals in an A Grade hockey game.
Taking on an added coaching role this season gave Walker plenty to think about on and off the field.
However, he led by example after giving his players a half-time rev-up to lift Wests from 3-1 down to a crucial 4-3 victory over Norths.
After equalising in the first half with a great strike, he completed his hat-trick with 17 minutes left.
His vital fourth goal was a stroke, again reflecting his determination to guide his team home.
"The boys had a stroke last week and missed it and they didn't know who was going to take it (on Saturday),'' he said.
So Walker stepped up and slotted the shot past agile Norths' keeper Kyah Andrew-Sharrad.
That came after his powerful halftime message with his team behind.
"Last week the boys were winning 3-0 and we ended up having a 3-3 draw so we just spoke about not being flat-footed,'' he said.
"The boys in the second half didn't drop their heads and fought back really well.
"It was great.''
The spirited comeback kept Wests up with leaders Hancocks in the hotly contested Ipswich A Grade competition.
"Our goal at the start of the year was to finish top two so you get two bites of the cherry in the semis,'' he said.
With Hancocks losing 2-1 to Easts in Saturday night's game, Wests made up some valuable ground ahead of fourth-placed Norths.
Hancocks also lost Sunday's Combined Competition final in Toowoomba, going down 3-1 to Newtown.
One round remains in the Ipswich competition before the playoffs.
Norths' coach Steve Profke highlighted his team's plight after the Devils gave up a winning advantage for the second week in a row.
"We've had 26 or 27 players come through the A Grade team this year,'' Profke said.
"We're a bit short at the moment with a few injuries still. I don't think we've fielded the same team any two weeks in a row yet so that's been hard.''
Profke is hoping to have Wil Dalais, Steve Ihle and Anthony Woodward back for the finals.
However, a positive for his team has been the valuable learning experience Norths' youngsters like David Visser, Jake Thornton and Brad Walker have been receiving.
"That's probably the big thing that we've tried to do a lot more of this year, give the kids a lot more time,'' Profke said. "I think it's paying off for us.''
Profke said dealing with experienced A Grade opponents like Ryan Smith (Hancocks) and Walker (Wests) gave his young brigade something to strive for.
"They are not easy players to look after,'' Profke said of what his newcomers have to contend with.
One of the teenagers standing up to more accomplished opponents is Profke's son Zac.
The Queensland under-18 squad member nailed another of his brilliant tomahawk goals to put the Devils up 1-0, before Maddocks' brothers Andrew and Nick gave Norths a 3-1 halftime lead.
Walker's inspired second half left Norths ruing their missed opportunity. The previous week, they slipped from 4-2 up to draw 4-4 with Hancocks.
"We've got a bit to work on,'' the coach said. "The game itself wasn't that bad.''
This year's Norths A Grade side retains strong family links with Profke's wife Jenny managing the team, when she doesn't have umpiring duties.
Maddocks' brothers Nick and Andrew will also have a major role to play in the finals.
State of play
Men's A Grade: Wests 4 (G Walker 4) d Norths 3 (Z Profke, N Maddocks, A Maddocks); Easts 2 (C Mantell, T Woodford) d Hancock Brothers 1 (B Douglas).
Combined Competition final: Newtown 3 (B Garske 3) d Hancock Brothers 1 (N Smith).
Women's A Grade: Wests 5 (E Jackat 2, A Kickbusch 2, T Canty) d Swifts 2 (H Sanderson 2); Hancock Brothers 2 (S Rogers, S Butta) d Norths 0.
Combined Competition final: Wests 7 (E Jackat 3, E Timperley 2, J Wilkinson, L Hess) d Red Lion 2 (A Clancy, E Henere).