Wests A-Grade hockey players listen intently to head coach Jade Close at halftime in their latest match. Picture: David Lems
Wests A-Grade hockey players listen intently to head coach Jade Close at halftime in their latest match. Picture: David Lems

Perfect set-up: Wests young guns receive national experience

WORKING with a skilful group of committed players is half the excitement Ipswich coach Vanessa Kissane is feeling at the moment.

Being assistant to a former national player in head coach Jade Close is proving just as satisfying.

One match into the revised Ipswich A-Grade hockey season, long-time Wests supporter Kissane was clearly pleased she stepped up into a higher grade.

"We're really happy,'' Kissane said, after defending premiers Wests beat Easts 4-1 at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.

"This group of girls have come up through the grades with each other.

"This is my first A-Grade coaching gig.''

Kissane had previously worked developing the club's lower grade players.

She said having former Hockeyroo Close as the lead coach was hugely beneficial for her and the team.

"She's just had so much exposure as an ex-Australian hockey player,'' Kissane said.

"Her ability to break down skill sets and this is exactly what we need with this group. So we can rely on the experience of the core that still exists there and actually developing the ones around them.

"She reads the play so beautifully well and can break it down in a way they understand.''

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With competition resuming, all players, coaches and officials have to follow a new COVID-19 Safe Plan. They register and enter through one gate as a group and exit via another gate at the end of the match.

"It's fantastic to be able to go from having nearly four months off and then getting in and playing first grade hockey,'' Kissane said.

Kissane said Wests would use the compressed season to give young players an opportunity to learn from the more experienced players around them.

The rising talents include Chloe Daley, Sophie De Castro, Sophie Kissane, Phoebe Duncalfe, Rhianna Picton and Amity Jackson, who scored her first A-Grade goal in Sunday night's win.

"It's to get them to enjoy their hockey and have the experience,'' she said.

"If we had a full season, it probably wouldn't look like this. We wouldn't have the same opportunities.

"They might get up every now and then, sitting on the bench, but they are actually active players.''

She praised the Wests players for their dedication during a period of uncertainty.

"When we weren't sure what was going to happen, people were really committed and I think our fitness is going to really see us through,'' she said.

"I think we'll see some exciting things the next couple of weeks.''

Wests A-Grade women's assistant coach Vanessa Kissane.
Wests A-Grade women's assistant coach Vanessa Kissane.

In their return match, the versatile Gabby Nicholls scored Wests' first goal during her tremendous performance. She delivered some exceptional passes before pressing into attack.

Sarah Donnelley made it 2-0 under the new 30 minute each way halves, rather than previous 17.5 minute quarters.

Captain Eden Jackat put the Magpies up 3-0 early in the second half with a super strike before Jackson savoured her debut A-Grade goal.

Ashley Hansen scored the Tigers only goal in the second half after a neat turn in direction to beat consistent Wests goalkeeper Tarni Iszlaub.

In the other A-Grade match to open the round, Hancocks and Thistles drew 1-1.

Women's and girls weekend results July 17-19

A Grade: Hancock Brothers 1 (Natalie Davison) drew Thistles 1 (Talicia Canty); Wests 4 (Gabby Nicholls, Eden Jackat, Sarah Donnelley, Amity Jackson) d Easts 1 (Ashley Hansen).

Reserve Grade: Easts 1 (K Hannah) d Hancock Brothers 0; Thistles 3 (N Yearbury, A Silcock, T Canty) d Wests 1 (H Wells); Norths 2 (C Brown, S Ashton) drew Swifts 2 (J Dodd, L Walter).

R2 Grade: Swifts 4 (L Shaw, A Mirallez, A Geeves, S Richards) d Easts 2 (A McPherson 2); Bellbowrie Gold 4 (C Bancroft-Davis, A Kennedy, C Casey, G Richardson) d Bellbowrie Green 0.

A2 Grade: Norths 4 (C Ellison 2, M Ross, E Rossington) d Swifts 0; Bellbowrie 1 (T McCulloch) d Hancock Brothers 0; Vets 1 (A Burt) drew Thistles 1 (T Wright).

C Grade: Hancock Brothers 7 (L Doyle 4, R McNamara, E Harrison, G Hyde) d Bellbowrie 2 (C Casey, G Richardson); Norths 7 (D Wenzel-Stephan 3, C Hinze 2, B Forde 2) d Thistles 0.

D Grade: North Western Strikers 9 (M Doyle 3, S Long 3, A Wells 2, T McPeake) d Hancock Brothers 3 (L Hill, E Lonsdale, K Dobinson); Swifts 1 (A Pascoe) d Easts 0.

E Grade: Western Strikers 2 (S Shiels, C Raper) d Thistles 0; Easts 11 (D Mole 4, J Hansen 3, V Tange 2, S Savage, L Smith) d Swifts 0.