Wests 'omen' lifts Magpies at right time

IT'S a positive sign that could deliver Wests an upset win and propel them into the preliminary final.

At least that's what respected Magpies A-grade hockey coach Kel Iszlaub is hoping for.

Preparing for tonight's elimination final against Easts, Iszlaub was delighted to see how well his team trained this week.

His wife Helen even commented she could hear them revved up at the Ipswich Hockey Complex, just up the road from where she and Kel lives.

It brought back memories of the lead-up to a 2007 success.

"When we won that premiership with Norths, Helen could hear the training from our place and she could actually hear them carrying on the other night so it might be a good omen,'' Kel (pictured) said. "It was just communication and getting pretty keen about it.

"If they can take Tuesday night's training onto the paddock on Saturday, anything can happen.''

It's that sort of positive approach that has helped Iszlaub gain a recent clean bill of health after receiving months of treatment for cancer.

He's carried that outlook into his coaching where he's blooded a number of new players and revived team spirit after some disappointing recent seasons.

Even with Wests being the fourth-placed side behind tonight's third-placed rivals Easts, Iszlaub is still upbeat.

"Our season really starts this week,'' the experienced umpire said.

"We've been off the pace but finals are different things. Anything can happen.

"You get a lucky bounce and you capitalise on that.''

Iszlaub has been pleased with his defence this year and thrilled to see bench player Mitch Kendall stepping up. His work up front is just what the Magpies need alongside captain Greg Walker and with South West Queensland player Todd Watson controlling the midfield.

Watson is expected back tonight after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury.

"If it wasn't a semi-final this week, he would probably miss this one too,'' Iszlaub said. "That's the sort of commitment he has shown.''

Defender Mick Wiseman is being monitored having suffered the flu early this week.

"I think they are pretty well up for it,'' Iszlaub said.

"It's what we've been building for so hopefully we can put it together.''

However, in a strange season of results where Wests have beaten and drawn with Easts, Iszlaub expects nothing less than a hungry Tigers outfit in tonight's 6pm final.

He's wary of in-form Australian Country representatives Chris Mantell and Chris Fazel, as well as dangerous striker Steve Bayliss and Daniel Mantell.

"They are all strong,'' he said. "And you can't underrate Kyle Sipper either. He's been going really well with them.

"East's at full strength will be a big task.''

Winning tonight will take West's into next weekend's preliminary final against the winner of tomorrow's qualifying playoff between Hancock's Brothers and North's.

But if the Magpies lose, Iszlaub will be sure about two things.

"They won't leave anything out on the paddock,'' he said.

"If we don't go any further this week, hopefully we can carry it over into next season.

"The morale is there.''

As Iszlaub proved in his cancer fight, being positive is the best way to tackle whatever challenge comes your way.

Finals Focus

  • Men's A grade: Tonight (6pm) - Elimination final: Easts (3rd) v Wests (4th). Tomorrow (4pm): Qualifying final - Hancock Brothers (1st) v Norths (2nd).
  • Women's A grade: Tonight (4.15pm) - Elimination final: Swifts/Thistles (3rd) v Norths (4th). Tomorrow (5.45pm): Qualifying final - Hancock Brothers (1st) v Wests (2nd).