Junior winners celebrate to ignite 2021 revival
AS Hancock Brothers players and officials reflect on their four 2020 Ipswich grand final victories, a major focus is retaining young players for the future.
Hancocks club president Grant Schultz offered a valuable insight into the ongoing challenges but also the hopes for a positive 2021 junior player revival.
"We noticed this year, like every club, that there's so many sports available to everyone that it's hard to attract players to hockey,'' he said.
"As a collective, all the clubs were trying to get more juniors - bring a friend and all that kind of thing.
"It's been a struggle for us.
"Our D-Grade girls teams and that played with 10 every week (after the March sporting shutdown due to coronavirus).
"And even right through the seniors, everyone is going to play two games just to try and keep it going.''
However, after the completion of the 2020 Ipswich COVID Competition grand finals over the weekend, Schtulz saw some positive signs.
"In the last three weeks, people have come to us to say: 'I want to play next year','' he said.
"So that's a good thing.''
He hopes Ipswich's hugely successful Hookin2Hockey program over recent years continues to provide a stream of junior talent.
"We were worried that it wouldn't go ahead this year and it did,'' Schultz said.
"There's heaps of those young kids that brought their friends from kindy, or grade one, or prep, or that kind of thing . . . and it looks promising next year.
"We think there will be a summer comp.
"There is definitely an indoor comp so hopefully some of the sports that didn't go back this year - netball is one of them - some of those players will come to us.''
Schultz said it was important to continue engaging with schools to source new talent.
"We've got a lot of senior players actually who are still at high schools like WestMAC (West Moreton Anglican College) and IGGS (Ipswich Girls' Grammar) and those schools where they have got seniors and juniors together.
"They're actually bringing a lot of players.
"You'll also see us through the off-season at the Showgrounds for their weekend markets (recruiting players).
"You've seen AFL and how good they've done with Kickstart and that, and hockey just doesn't have the budget to do that from a national level. So it really relies on our clubs.''
Over the weekend, Hancocks opened the junior grand finals with a win in the E-Grade boys decider.
Easts celebrated grand final success in E-Grade girls and D-Grade boys.
Swifts won D-Grade girls and Norths took out the C-Grade girls title.
In his fifth year as club president, Schultz was delighted to have six Hancocks teams in the grand finals.
He played in the Hancocks Reserve Grade side that enduring a nailbiting shootouts loss to Norths on Sunday.
While that was disappointing, he was immensely proud of the four Hancocks teams which won - the E-Grade boys, A2 men, Hancocks A-Grade men and Hancock's A-Grade women.
He praised the way Hancocks and Norths provided an entertaining, up-tempo spectacle in the A-Grade men's grand final on Saturday night. Hancocks won 3-2.
"It was a really fast game and I'm pretty proud to see our A-Grade boys are more men now,'' he said.
"And we are not seeing the argy-bargy on the field. We're seeing them play hockey.''
Both teams showcased some wonderful junior talent rising up the ranks, reinforcing the need to keep developing more youngsters.
STATE OF PLAY
2020 Ipswich COVID competition junior winners
C Grade girls: Norths 7 (Dakota Wenzel-Stephan 4, Bella Forde 2, Emily Noga) d Hancock Brothers 1 (Tahra Robinson).
D Grade boys: Easts 3 (Sam Morris 2, Luke Morris) d Norths 2 (Jordan Donald 2).
D Grade girls: Swifts 3 (Sophie Baldwin 2, Addison Harris) d North Western Strikers 2 (Abby Wells, Monique Doyle).
E Grade boys: Hancock Brothers 2 (Mikey Hogan 2) def Easts Black 2 (Luke Morris 2) in the first minute of extra time. Ryan Conway scored for Hancocks to give his team a 3-2 win.
E Grade girls: Easts 4 (Sarah Savage 2, Victoria Tange 2) d Norths 0.
Thanks to Ipswich hockey officials Margret Mantell and Tracey Doyle for providing results and photos.