Wests A-grade coaches Kel Iszlaub (left) and Steve Rogers.
Wests A-grade coaches Kel Iszlaub (left) and Steve Rogers. Contributed

Hockey stalwart positive in the face of cancer battle

KEL Iszlaub has a reputation for instilling confidence and discipline in the hockey sides he coaches.

He has wasted little time in his new role as Wests A-grade men's mentor.

One of his first tasks was to build team harmony so he arranged a beach session at the Southport Spit.

The whole squad arrived for some extra running at 7am on a Sunday.

"You could see the cohesion coming into it,'' Iszlaub said.

The Wests team has been training since the end of January and had a positive trial against Toowoomba Past High last weekend.

"It's a culture change for them I think,'' Iszlaub said.

"It's something different to what they have been used to over the years and it's coming along really good.''

HAVING battled what he has in recent months, Kel Iszlaub deserves all the support he's received.

Preparing for cancer surgery later this month, the Ipswich hockey stalwart could have taken it easy and enjoyed a break from the sport he loves.

However, that's not the Iszlaub way.

As he has all his life, the respected umpire and coach has remained positive.

"I feel good in myself at the moment,'' he said, having endured weeks of chemotherapy before Christmas.

"I'm getting around good but I go in for surgery on the 27th.

"Hopefully I'll come back and get into it again.''

Iszlaub is keen to carry that positive attitude into his new role with Wests this season.

He's returning to A-grade ranks to guide the men's side in this year's Ipswich competition starting tomorrow night.

"With what I've been going through, I want to help the club out, help the younger kids come through,'' he said.

"And just with my own health, it's been a good deterrent (from the treatment).

"Being positive is what I'm putting into these kids at the moment.''

Wests tackle last year's grand finalists Easts in the 7pm encounter.

"It will be different,'' Iszlaub said of playing A grade on Friday night.

However, his major focus is on building a competitive Magpies unit after a few seasons where the A-grade team lost its way.

Iszlaub is looking to experienced co-captains Mark Sharrad and Greg Walker to lead, especially during the four weeks he is in hospital.

Iszlaub is also expecting big seasons from Ipswich representative juniors like vice-captain Mitchell Moran, Tom Picton, Tekoda Andrew-Sharrad and Matthew Westphal.

Moran was last year's Ipswich A-grade player of the year.

"We're not playing any dual (registered) players so we're just going to use the young kids that are coming through,'' the coach said.

They will receive more game time with experienced campaigner Nathan Hooper and state player Jarrod Brown leaving Wests.

Other key players returning include Todd Watson, Michael Wiseman and Kel's son Blair.

Iszlaub last coached men's A grade in 2008 with Norths.

Since then, he worked with the Bellbowrie women's side and has helped out the Wests Reserve grade team.

Having been in Ipswich since 1980, the Broncos rugby league fan still enjoys his hockey.

He has umpired for 43 years, starting age 15.

And that's why he appreciated all the well wishes he's received in recent months.