A-grade workouts lift Ipswich teams' hopes
DISAPPOINTMENT is often the word used when a team loses or gives up a lead to draw.
However, that was far from the case in weekend A-grade men's hockey games involving Hancock Brothers and Wests.
Hancocks surrendered a 5-3 advantage against defending premiers Norths to draw 5-5 in Saturday night's clash at Raceview.
A day later, Wests lost 4-3 to Toowoomba's leading side Newtown at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
Hancocks mentor Martin Flanigan and Wests player/coach Todd Watson were both encouraged by the results.
"I was happy with our fellas, particularly the way they played in the first half,'' Flanigan said.
Without their Brisbane stars, Hancocks led 1-0 at that stage.
"It was just a little bit of inexperience, particularly after the halftime break. Not stepping up again to the same intensity.''
Peter Mitchell had a strong game, scoring twice.
Under-15 state player Ryan Smith returned from Murwillumbah to score a fine tomahawk goal underneath the crossbar.
With the combined competition involving Toowoomba nearly finished, Flanigan believes his fourth-placed side can make an impact in the Ipswich finals.
"Last time we played Norths they beat us 5-1 and jumped away in the second half,'' he said. "We couldn't respond.
"But this time, we had the upper hand and they had to come back.''
It took some late brilliance from Norths' strike weapon Dean Jeffrey to secure the Devils a draw.
Flanigan was also impressed with Wests, having watched them on Sunday.
"It's the best I've seen them play actually,'' Flanigan said.
Watson, who scored from a penalty corner, was also heartened by the Magpies' showing.
"Just the effort that the boys put in,'' Watson said.
"We played pretty well.
"Everyone did their job and stepped up to the mark.
"Last year, they wouldn't have believed in themselves to do it.''
That is the transformation that has taken place with Watson's professional approach this season. He's getting good numbers to training and is working well with senior players like Nathan Hooper, Greg Walker, Brent Nicholls and goalkeeper Mark Sharrad.
"We've come a long way,'' he said. "If you don't train, you're not going to be a good team no matter who you've got.''
With Wests after second spot for the finals, Watson is also considering options like playing Jarrod Brown in his usual centre-half role.
Brown impressed in that position while Watson was recently in China for work.
Flanigan, meanwhile, praised winger Simon Drew for stepping up.
"He's a guy in his early twenties who doesn't have a great lot of skill but he's got a hell of a lot of ticker,'' Flanigan said.
"I'm impressed with him. I wish I had a couple more of him.''
In the other A-grade men's game, competition leaders Easts had an expected 10-0 win over Toowoomba Rangeville. Tim Woodford netted another hat-trick.
State of Play
Men's A grade - Hancock Brothers 5 (P Mitchell 2, C Davies 2, R Smith) drew Norths Ipswich 5 (M Pocock 2, D Jeffrey 2, J Dalais); Newtown 4 d Wests 3 (T Watson, G Walker, B Nicholls), Easts 10 (T Woodford 3, D Llewelyn 3, S Bayliss 2, D Mantell, L Smith) d Rangeville 0.
Women's A grade - Swifts 2 (B Webb, A Callow) d Rangeville 0; Hancock Brothers 2 (T Haley, S Conway) d Newtown 0; Norths Ipswich 1 (R Mantell) drew Red Lion 1; Thistles 1 (R Fitzgerald) d Bellbowrie 0, Wests v Norths Toowoomba unavailable.