Real loyalty: 'I'd swap 600 games for an elusive grand final'
PROUD Wests' clubman Greg Walker celebrated his 600th match in the best way possible, helping his team reach its first grand final in many years.
However, the loyal hockey striker showed his passion for the Ipswich club with his post-preliminary final declaration.
"I'd take back all those 600 games to win on Saturday,'' Walker said after Wests beat Easts 3-1 to progress to this weekend's A Grade grand final.
Walker knew the milestone was close but only found out just before Sunday's final.
"It was a bit of a shock but the end result was better,'' he said.
Wests last won an A Grade men's grand final in 1989.
Walker, 35, is preparing for his fourth grand final having previously had to settle for runner-up status.
The popular Ipswich sportsman has been the backbone of the Magpies' A Grade side for several seasons, first playing in the top division aged 13 and often being their top goal scorer.
In adding the coaching role this year, he's used all his experience. Walker has worked with the senior players while encouraging the young brigade coming through.
Beating minor premiers Easts in Sunday night's preliminary final continued the momentum Wests have been building after last year winning just one game.
"We've come a long way this season,'' Walker said.
"The whole year we've just gone back to basic hockey. It's all coming together at the right time of the year.''
Wests will meet Hancock Brothers in Saturday night's grand final at 6pm.
Walker said defeating the Tigers was satisfying after only leading 1-0 at halftime.
"Easts are a good quality side and coached well,'' he said.
"Our aim of the game was possession, hold onto the ball. While we have the ball, the less goals they can score.
"It worked out well.''
Walker netted the second goal after Jay Pavitt opened the scoring. Christian Coulson-Futcher sealed the victory.
For the week ahead, Walker said his team would prepare as they have all season.
The Wests' group are also organising a team get-together on Friday night to watch the Broncos play in the first week of NRL finals.
The rise of the Wests' men co-incides with the club's impressive season.
Exciting goalkeeping prospect Matthew West was named A Grade player of the year at Friday night's Ipswich Hockey Gala Awards dinner.
With the 15-year-old playing a final in Brisbane, Walker accepted the award on his behalf.
At the same function, Wests celebrated receiving club championship honours in the men's and women's competitions.
Wests are represented in four of the seven grand finals at the Ipswich Hockey Complex on Friday night and Saturday.
Joining Walker's A Grade men's combination are the Wests' A Grade women and the club's Reserve Grade men's and women's teams.
The club's juniors also won three of their five grand finals at Raceview on Saturday.
Junior hockey grand final wrap-up in Wednesday's QT.
State of play
A Grade men's preliminary final: Wests 3 (Jay Pavitt, Greg Walker, Christian Coulson-Futcher) d Easts 1 (Jacob Robertson).
A Grade women's preliminary final: Hancock Brothers 2 (Robyn Clarke, Aimee McDermott) d Swifts 0.
Club championship final points: Men - Wests 213, Easts 161, Norths 130, Hancock Brothers 88, Bellbowrie 45, UQ 41, Norths/Hancocks 22.
Women: Wests 327, Swifts 215, Thistles 144, Bellbowrie 127, Collegians 103, Norths 80, Hancock Brothers 66, Vets 52, Thistles/Bellbowrie 35, Thistles/Hancocks 20, Easts 17.