FINAL FLASHBACK: Although some club regulars are missing from Saturday night's latest A-Grade grand final, Hancock Brothers and Norths are sure to turn on a terrific show of skills and speed at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
FINAL FLASHBACK: Although some club regulars are missing from Saturday night's latest A-Grade grand final, Hancock Brothers and Norths are sure to turn on a terrific show of skills and speed at the Ipswich Hockey Complex. Rob Williams

Youth, hot shots and rapid-fire excitement on offer

WITH two grand final combatants capable of scoring in the blink of an eye, lessons from past clashes are crucial.

Former premiership-winning Norths' A-Grade men's coach and player Steve Profke knows that as well as anyone preparing for Saturday night's hockey showdown with defending premiers Hancocks.

"All year, we've been really close so it will be a matter of getting the boys ready for the speed,'' Profke said, offering an insight into his team's preparation.

"The first final (won 5-3 by Hancocks) was one of the fastest games we've played this year so I'm expecting it to be even quicker (on Saturday night).''

With no major injuries or dual registration player issues, Profke was confident of having all his regulars available for the 6.45pm grand final.

He said the focus of the week was on controlling what Norths could do against a quality opponent like Hancocks.

As for having to qualify for the grand final via last Sunday night's 5-0 preliminary final win over Wests, Profke hoped that ended up being an advantage.

"We won't really know until after Saturday,'' he said. "It's good to get a break but it's also good to keep everything ticking over.''

A positive for the Norths' A-Grade this season was having more young players gaining valuable experience.

"Up until the last two games, we've never had the same team,'' Profke said. "Sometimes only five or so from A-Grade and the rest filling in from Reserve and juniors.''

However, Profke knows his son Zac will be in the spotlight being arguably the competition's best penalty corner converter and lethal in the goal circle.

"I try and take the focus off Zac,'' the coach said. "It will be more about how we work as a group.

"The young guys have been a major force for us this year. Not only the 17, 18 year olds but also the 14, 15, 16 year olds that have helped out.''

Their contribution came at the right time. "This year has been a rough year with plenty of Reserve Grade and C Grade boys helping,'' Profke said.

"(Goalkeeper) Jay Petersen is still on my bench at 44 then we have kids like Riley Profke, Baxter Powell and Ben Suthers who are only 14/15, so it's been really exciting to have that mix.''

Asked how he keeps the younger players relaxed and calm, Profke said a familiar preparation was the key.

"It's what we work for all year so the most important thing is to just go through normal routines and not over-think the game before we get on the field,'' he said.

 

The grand final-winning Norths R2 hockey side.
Steve Profke (far left) with the grand final-winning Norths R2 hockey side.

Saturday night's grand final will be Profke's fourth as a coach with one win from three previous encounters. He's also playing in Saturday afternoon's R2 grand final against Easts.

One of his favourite moments was in 2016 when he played with son Zac in the Norths' Reserve Grade grand final success before Steve coached the victorious A-Grade side. That was Zac's first A-Grade title in the Ipswich competition.

"I've probably played in 10 or more grand finals with about 50/50 success,'' he said.

Profke hopes the two Norths' teams playing on Saturday can bolster that record.