New dad excited to return after COVID ‘blessing’
REFRESHED from some quality time with his family, Hancocks goal scoring ace Nathan Smith feels ready to make another impact this season.
While he didn't get a chance when Sunday night's A-Grade match was called off, Smith was eager to play again with a group of teammates he calls his second family.
He took last season off during the COVID situation to spend with his partner Ruby-Rose and new addition Daisy-Jean.
"I had a daughter in January last year and she's just turned one,'' Smith said.
The couple are engaged and hope to marry next year.
Having played for 20 consecutive years, including the past 10 at a higher level, Smith said it was the perfect time to get away.
"Definitely,'' Smith, 24, said.
"With COVID, it was a blessing in disguise to take a year off.
"I was sort of at my peak but I guess family comes first.''
He resisted the temptation to have a run last season.
"I didn't come out and watch one game. I just had a complete year off,'' he said.
"I knew if I came out, I would have come back.''
Prior to his break, Smith was making Ipswich and regional teams, also joining the extended Queensland Blades squad.
However, he plans to focus on club hockey for a while, also regularly working six days a week in a quarry.
"I definitely missed it (playing hockey),'' he said.
"I got a lot of encouragement to come back from partner. She wants to come out with the little one. She just loves watching.''
Hancocks were to play Norths in last year's grand final rematch on Sunday night before the skies opened. Pools of water gradually formed on the main field at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
Smith's first game back was in Hancocks' 3-2 victory over Wests in the first round.
"It was a pretty rough game for both of us, just trying to get back to basics,'' he said.
However, reuniting with his brother Ryan in A-Grade gave Nathan a new lease of hockey life having adjusted to being a new dad.
"I feel refreshed. I'm definitely keen to get back into it,'' he said.
"It's a good culture (at Hancocks) and I guess you could say we're close family.''
When the rain clears, Smith is eager to resume his goalscoring deeds with other Hancocks strike weapons like Jackson Willie.
"If anything we've got a little bit stronger,'' Smith said.
"I actually get pushed up to the front this year so I'm looking forward to that.''
With about 90 per cent of his teammates having come through the Hancocks ranks together, Smith was delighted to have loyal club person Sara Rogers as coach.
"We've been in pre-season since the end of December, early January so we've been hard at it,'' he said. "We are definitely fit.
"Sara is awesome. She's probably one of the best things that's happened to our A-Grade team.
"The commitment she does towards the team is unspoken.''
Having shared in three premierships with Hancocks and the same number with Easts, former captain Smith backed the team's new leader Sam Morgan.
"He puts a lot of hard yards in,'' Smith said. "He may not seem like he's there but he's always there.''
As for having Sunday's match called off before it started, Smith accepted it was the right decision.
"Not much you can do about the rain,'' he said. "You have to be safe really.''
His enthusiasm to fire up again can wait another week.
Wests secured their first three points of the season by beating Easts 5-1 in the earlier men's A-Grade game.
STATE OF PLAY
Men and boy's results March 19-22
A Grade: Wests 5 (Caleb McCoombes 3, Christian Coulson-Futcher, David Arndt) d Easts 1 (Jesse Hoyland-Meaker); Hancock Brothers drew Norths (match abandoned due to weather).
Reserve Grade: Easts 5 (P Denny 2, C Mantell, K Sippel, T Woodford) d Wests 1 (C Coulson-Futcher); Norths 7 (B Powell 2, L Lambert 2, P, Jordan, I Jordan, J Petersen) d Hancock Brothers 2 (B French, J Burns).
R2 Grade: Easts Black 3 (D Bell, Z Chetham, L Schneider) d Easts Gold 0; Wests 2 (L Alchin, C Ward) d Bellbowrie 1 (J Donald); Hancock Brothers 8 (J Burns 4, K Smith 3, L McQueen) d Norths 1 (T Ross).
A2 Grade: Swifts 8 (C Meloury 4, Z Pascoe 3, B Meloury) d Northern Strikers 0; Wests 6 (L Alchin 3, A Pamenter 2, S Meredith) d Hancock Brothers 2 (P Jackwitz, P Dawson).
J1 Grade: Wests Black 4 (S Bock, S Schoenknecht, T Kissane, H Black) d Wests White 2 (H McInnes, L Butler); Easts 4 (S Morris, K Wesche, L Morris, J Di Rust) d Norths 0; Hancock Brothers 7 (W, McCormick 2, O Read 2, S Jackwitz, L Hollister, M Hogan) d Bellbowrie 2 (J Donald 2).
J2 Grade: Easts Gold 1 (S Ackerman) drew Easts Black 1 (B Sawyer); Hancock Brothers 4 (M Hogan 2, L Dawson, A Hanley) d Norths 2 (F Bauer, J Cox).