The Easts A-Grade hockey team ponder the state of play in their season opening match against Norths. Picture: David Lems
The Easts A-Grade hockey team ponder the state of play in their season opening match against Norths. Picture: David Lems

National player glad to be ‘home’ lifting junior confidence

EVEN after a spate of injury setbacks, former national player Chris Fazel wanted to line up in this year's Ipswich competition.

The prospect of playing A-Grade for his former Easts club was inviting having returned "home''.

However, a left shoulder reconstruction next month has delayed Fazel's return to the field for at least another season.

The Amberley aviation instructor is not letting that stop him from sharing his vast knowledge at the Tigers.

Fazel, 32, is coaching the Easts A-Grade side this season, having pondered that opportunity in recent years.

"So it's my way of giving back really,'' he said.

"It works a bit better for me getting a bit older too but it's a good way to think about the game as well. "Rather than just being involved in it, it makes you actually a bit more critical of everything going on around you.''

Fazel is married to another defence force player Shelby and they have a 20 month son Ziggy.

After stints in Townsville and Wagga Wagga, Chris is back on familiar turf, where he previously shared in two Easts A-Grade premierships over four years with the club in the early 2010s.

"It's good to be back,'' he said. "It feels more homely than down south unfortunately with all the COVID and everything.

"Everyone at Ipswich hockey is good.''

Easts A-Grade hockey coach Chris Fazel. Picture: David Lems
Easts A-Grade hockey coach Chris Fazel. Picture: David Lems

Fazel has achieved considerable representative success in hockey, making a number of Australian Country and Australian Defence Force national sides between 2009 and 2016.

That included a national team trip to Malaysia with Ipswich trio Chris Mantell, Sara Rogers and Dean Jeffrey followed by a New Zealand tour the next year.

However, the halfback's valuable contribution was interrupted by hip and knee injuries in 2016 and 2017.

After a year off, the Townsville-bred sportsman played in the Canberra Capital League following a stint with Albury Wodonga.

He damaged his ACL in an Australian Country titles semi-final against Queensland in Berry.

"This (shoulder reconstruction) will be likely be my fifth surgery in 11 years,'' he said.

But prior to his major injuries, he had also enjoyed premiership success over seven years from 2008 with Commercial in the Townsville competition.

The aspiring coach has a lot of knowledge to offer.

Fittingly, one of his former Easts teammates Chris Mantell is coaching the Easts A-Grade women this year.

As that bond is renewed at the Ipswich Hockey Complex, Fazel is getting to work injecting more confidence in Easts youthful players.

WELCOME RETURN: Another Chris returns to help Easts

The Easts A-Grade hockey team that played their first game this season. Picture: David Lems
The Easts A-Grade hockey team that played their first game this season. Picture: David Lems

He's excited about the club's junior development feeding into the senior ranks.

"Coming back to Easts and hearing that all the juniors are coming to fruition, it seems like a pretty good spot to be in because you want to give back to the club,'' he said.

Fazel hopes to bring out the best in his team, captained by loyal clubman Kyle Sippel.

"We're pretty lucky for numbers,'' the new coach said, happy to be working with talented players like Max Schulz and Patrick Denny.

"Those boys were only young fellas when I was around so it's good to see them stepping up.

"I want to try and give them as much as I can with the past three coaches that I've had. And some of the best coaches have been the guys who are willing to make you just enjoy your hockey and then try and give you as much as they can.''

He said coaches he had work with focused on giving their players self awareness and "making them sure of themselves and getting them to have that hockey maturity … that sporting maturity you get as you get a bit older.

"They were really good at allowing you to play your game and then not try and get in the way as much. Just give you a bit of guidance.''

Although Easts lost their opening match 7-1 to Norths last Sunday night, Fazel is keen to revitalise the A-Grade team this season.

After watching Jacob Robertson unknowingly break his ankle in the second quarter, get it strapped and keep playing, Fazel knows he has some gritty competitors to work with.

"He's one of those guys that's a doer,'' Fazel said. "What he does inspires those guys around him.''

Fazel hopes Robertson takes the time to recover and come back properly to play more important roles in the future.

GAME DAY

Ipswich Hockey Association

Men's and boys' fixtures March 19-21: Friday (Field, Time, Umpires, Tech Bench) - A2 Grade: Northern Strikers v Swifts, 1, 7pm, H Hocking/M Eleison, E Klepzig; Hancock Brothers v Wests 2, 8.30pm, H Hocking/S Hudson, R Chandler

Saturday: R2 Grade - Easts Black v Easts Gold, 1, 1pm, S Brown/B Kinnane, T Doyle; Bellbowrie v Wests, 1, 2.30pm, B Kinnane/S Hudson, T Doyle; Hancock Brothers v Norths, 2, 4pm, H Hocking/S Hudson, E Klepzig.

Reserve: Wests v Easts, 1, 4pm, N Walker/B McManus, L Haley/M Eleison.

A Grade: Wests v Easts, 1, 7pm, H Michel/R Arthur, J Walker/E Klepzig.

Sunday: J2 Grade - Hancock Brothers v Norths, 1, 10am, T McPeake/A Wells, L Haley; Easts Black v Easts Gold, 3, 10am, K Roberts/A Meloury.

J1 Grade: Wests White v Wests Black, 2, 10am, K McPeake/S Robertson, R Chandler; Easts v Norths, 1, 11.30am, J Herron/P Daly, L Haley; Hancock Brothers v Bellbowrie, 2, 1pm, J Herron/S Robertson, K Batten.

Reserve: Hancock Brothers v Norths, 1, 2.30pm, H Michel/Z Profke, C Gotting/M Eleison.

A Grade: Hancock Brothers v Norths, 1, 5.30pm, M Eleison/B Kinnane, C Gotting/E Klepzig.

Byes: A2 Grade - Easts; J2 Grade - Wests.

Women's and girls' fixtures March 19-21: Friday (Field, Time, Umpires, Tech Bench) - A2 Grade: Wests v Vets, 2, 7pm, B Gotting/K McPeake, R Chandler.

A Grade: Wests v Easts, 1, 8.30pm, J Fox/M Eleison, B Gotting/E Klepzig.

Saturday: E Grade - Northern Strikers v Hancock Brothers, 1, 10.10am, J Hollis/P Mole, R Chandler; Thistles v Wests, 2, 10.10am, S Jackwitz/A Meloury, B Gotting; Swifts v Easts, 3, 10.10am, B Profke/K Roberts.

D Grade: Swifts v Wests, 1, 11.30am, P Mole/S Baldwin, R Chandler; Norths v Easts, 2, 11.30am, H Simpson/A Wells, B Gotting.

C Grade: Thistles/Hancocks v Easts, 2, 1pm, K McPeake/TBA, C Gotting.

R2 Grade: Easts v Vets, 2, 2.30pm, M Eleison/TBA, E Klepzig.

Reserve: Thistles v Easts, 1, 5.30pm, N Walker/B McManus, J Walker; Hancock Brothers v Swifts, 2, 5.30pm, H Michel/R Arthur, L Haley.

A2 Grade: Bellbowrie v Thistles, 2, 7pm, S Brown/K McPeake, B Gotting.

Sunday: C Grade - Northern Strikers v Swifts, 2, 11.30am, B Gotting/S Brown, K Batten.

R2 Grade: Hancock Brothers v Norths, 1, 1pm, A Eleison/Z Profke, L Haley; Bellbowrie Gold v Swifts, 2, 2.30pm, K McPeake/G Dobbs, B Gotting.

A Grade: Hancock Brothers v Swifts, 1, 4pm, J Fox/M Eleison, C Gotting/L Haley.

Reserve: Bellbowrie v Norths, 2, 4pm, B McManus/Z Eleison, J Walker.

A2 Grade: Hancock Brothers v Swifts, 2, 5.30pm, G Dobbs/Z Eleison, J Walker.

Byes: A Grade - Thistles; Reserve - Wests; R2 Grade - Bellbowrie Green; C Grade - Easts; D Grade - Hancock Brothers.