Ipswich tested in capital
Many in hockey circles may not know that Ipswich competed in the Brisbane division 1 men’s hockey competition almost 30 years ago.
Ipswich Hockey Association fielded a team in the Brisbane league in 1992, drawing players from local clubs.
A year earlier, Brisbane Hockey Association (BHA) granted Toowoomba entry into the competition after Round 9 of the 1991 season, to replace the struggling City United side. Perennial wooden spooners, City United had not won a match in more than three-and-a-half seasons, a winless run of more than 60 games.
Despite their 0-9 record in 1991, Toowoomba’s presence “proved to be a very positive one for the standard of our Division 1 competition and was very popular with players and supporters alike”, then BHA President Ken Leslie said in the Brisbane Hockey Association 1991 Annual Report.
Inspired by Toowoomba’s entry into Brisbane hockey, the Gold Coast, Ipswich and Border (Tweed) hockey associations sought entry into the league and in 1992 the competition was expanded to 13 teams. It somewhat fulfilled a vision for a southeast Queensland hockey league that some in the sport had championed for some time. However, the regional teams had limited success during an arduous 26-round regular season. Ipswich and wooden spooners Gold Coast won just four games between them and Toowoomba conceded the most goals of any side. Border was very competitive and finished just three points outside the top five.
BHA President Ken Leslie said while the regional teams added new colour and personalities to the competition, the country teams were forced to play too much hockey given players competed in their own domestic leagues as well as for their city.
The then BHA Secretary Phyllis Hawgood said as the season wore on it was obvious that the outside centres were having difficulty in fielding teams each weekend of a standard to meet the demands of the first division competition.
“This was not due to a lack of commitment on the players part, but to the rigorous demands in the number of games each player was required to play,” she said.
Former Ipswich Hockey stalwart Greg Woodford was a member of the Ipswich side to contest the 1992 Brisbane Hockey League.
Woodford said it was not a representative team but instead comprised local players who were keen to pick up an extra game and test themselves in the big smoke.
“We played every Friday night,” he said.
“They organised it that way so we could come back and play for our clubs on a Saturday or Sunday.
‘It wasn’t the best Ipswich team.
“A lot of players didn’t want to do it.
“It was really just the ones who were keen on doing it and we picked a side out of that.
“If you wanted to play you were in the team.”
Fullback Woodford, who was 36 at the time, had already completed stints with the Queensland under-21 and open men’s teams and was nearing the back-end of his playing years.
He put his hand up to join the Ipswich team because he wanted a chance to play in Brisbane alongside close friends.
“Brisbane teams were always asking us to go down and play with them, and we had always knocked it back because of the travel, so I though oh well I’ll give it a go,” he said.
“And it was a good experience.
‘We had a few games. We were playing down there on their turf on the artificial fields at Redcliffe and all over the place.
“It was good, just a chance to play another game with your mates against all the Brisbane teams.”
Woodford said while the fitness and skill levels of players, and overall speed of the game were superior in Brisbane, Ipswich battled because they were unable to maintain a consistent squad and train every week as a result of the demanding hockey schedule.
“They were that well-drilled,” he said.
“The teams we were playing against had been together for three or four years and training two nights per week.
“We really weren’t training.
“We were still training with our club sides and then we would just show up there on a Friday night.
“There were no combinations.
“It was just a thrown together team. A lot of times people were playing out of position just to fill the gaps.
“It was not like Ipswich, with (Barry) Dancer coaching us we’d be training three times a week and we would have set moves and different plays.
“We would struggle to get a team sometimes because some guys couldn’t make it but once we started we didn’t want to pull out.”
Ipswich, Border and Gold Coast did not enter teams in the Brisbane competition for 1993, with the league reverting to a 10-team, 18-round season. Toowoomba continued playing in the Brisbane competition until the end of 1995.
It was the last time a team from outside the Greater Brisbane area would play in the Brisbane competition until Gold Coast club Labrador entered the league in 2007.
Woodford said there were benefits to having what was effectively a southeast Queensland Hockey League.
He suggested having a similar team from Ipswich take part in Brisbane today could be a way to keep promising local talents based at their home centre, strengthening the A-Grade competition and representative side into seniors.
“A lot of young guys today are going and playing in Brisbane,” he said.
“So the guys that are thinking about playing in Brisbane might think well I’ll stick around in Ipswich and play club hockey in Ipswich and then go play in Brisbane with this (Ipswich) team.”
1992 Ipswich Player of the Year votes
Darryl Dull 10
Brendan Smith 10
Liam Marsh 5
John Topping 4
Greg Woodford 3
Danny Bates 2
Marty Flanagan 2
Andrew Green 2
Stephen Headrick 2
Craig Kapel 2
Ken Mc Coomb 2
Wayne Follett 1
Bradley Heathwood 1
1992 Brisbane Hockey Division One Points Standings
South West Utd 46
St Andrews 26
Gold Coast 11