Tradition rich Thistles play valuable role in Ipswich hockey
WHEN Ipswich's longest running club serving women's hockey is still growing, club officials must be doing something right.
They are at Thistles Ladies Hockey Club.
Led by club president Pauline Alchin and her sister Bernadette, Thistles are preparing to field a host of female teams again this year.
That includes an A-Grade side keen to build on last year's success making the grand final in their first season back.
Alchin is delighted to have representative player Sam Morgan taking on the A-Grade coaching role, replacing teammate Jay Pavitt.
Pavitt did a terrific job bringing the Thistles players together and building a side that pushed the more established Hancocks side all the way to extra time in the grand final.
Morgan offered to help out the first division side with Pavitt focusing on his 2021 Brisbane commitments.
Morgan coached the Thistles Reserve Graders last year, establishing important links to the top grade squad.
"He (Morgan) has got huge experience playing with Queensland teams, Queensland Country and Australian Country,'' Alchin said.
Thistles are also looking to enter teams in Reserve Grade, A2, C Grade (under 15) and E Grade (under 11).
"We're fairly definite on what we're going to do,'' she said.
Teams started training last week.
Alchin said having a successful A-Grade team last season was another positive for the club formed in 1938 from the previous St Stevens's (Scott's Presbyterian Church) players, which began in 1936.
"It's something for that under-15 side to look forward to,'' Alchin said.
"They've been together since probably under 11s, so they are coming through nicely.
"They started to get into senior hockey last year so it will probably introduce them a little bit more into Reserve Grade this year.''
Although not as big a club as Hancocks, Norths, Easts and Wests, Thistles are rich in history and provide valuable competition for girls and women.
Alchin has been club president for more than 35 years, working hard to keep the clubs Thistle emblem prominent.
"It's going on pretty nicely,'' she said of preparations for the new season starting on March 12.
"We're slowly building up there, getting that strength back into our sides.
"We're happy with our A-Grade girls. That's something that we really needed to do.
"That was one of our main goals so we've done that.''
Over many decades, Thistles senior and junior teams have shared in premiership glory. That included a stronghold as A Grade premiers from 1983-1988 when hockey was played at the East Ipswich fields.
Thistles players have been well represented in Ipswich and Queensland Country teams over the years.
Thistles grew from one junior team to having a side in every grade for many years.
In 1999, the Thistles D Grade team won the inaugural IHA Team of the Year trophy.
From 1948-1953, the club fielded a men's team consisting of a number of long standing Ipswich Life Members including Stan Fullelove, Basil Coker, Beris Mack and Neville Winks.
Tackling last year's COVID challenges, Alchin praised Ipswich officials for a fine job getting a shorter season up and running with modified playing conditions..
"The Ipswich Hockey COVID plan was really good and everyone followed it,'' she said.
"There were no objections. No one was complaining. I think they just wanted to play so they just did what they had to do to get on the pitch.''
As for Thistles, Alchin is preparing some younger girls on the committee to take the club forward in future seasons.
While ever-supportive of her club players, officials and helpers, Alchin has achieved a memorable milestone of her own.
That was passing the 800 games in 2018.
Having extended that record to about 840 matches, Alchin said she was semi-retired this season.
The former St Mary's student has given more than 40 years service in a range of playing, official and umpiring roles.
Alchin will help the Thistles A2 side if needed this year, underlying her ongoing club spirit and dedication.