Even an ex-Australian player can feel the pressure
BEING appointed captain of an unbeaten premiership-winning team can bring a whole new set of challenges and additional pressure.
Even former international hockey players like Amy Kickbusch (nee Korner) need time to adjust to the vital role.
However, preparing for Sunday's Combined Competition final in Ipswich, Kickbusch appreciated the recent honour, 27 years after first playing for the Wests club she loves.
"I don't think I've ever captained Wests before so that was exciting,'' Kickbusch said.
"I've tried to kind of sit back a little bit and now I've got to step up and have a bit more input, which is really nice.''
Kickbusch, 33, was asked to lead the undefeated Wests' combination with former skipper Eden Jackat away on holidays.
Although previously captaining Ipswich and state junior teams "a couple of times'', the highly-regarded sportswoman found it a new role.
"I guess it's getting more involved, especially when we played (last year's grand final runners-up) Hancocks on the weekend,'' said Wests' leading goal scorer.
"It was probably not one of our greatest games so I guess that's where I need to step it up a little bit.''
Despite expecting more, Kickbusch scored another double as Wests won 5-1.
"I haven't felt that pressure for a long while,'' the new skipper said, appreciating the support of good friend and former co-captain Amy Nicholls.
"It's nice to have a teammate to kind of bounce off and lean on and just back you up.''
Long-serving Wests coach Brent Nicholls has always valued Kickbusch's mentor role and loyalty, even when she was away for many years representing the Queensland Scorchers and Australian Hockeyroos.
"She's going to remain co-captain with Eden for the rest of the year,'' Nicholls said.
The annual Ipswich Hockey Association honour for best female player of the season is also named after Kickbusch - as the Amy Korner Excellence award.
Sunday's final features a showdown between Ipswich's top A-Grade side Wests and Toowoomba's most consistent club team Rangeville.
The 1pm match at the Ipswich Hockey Complex precedes the men's Combined Competition final between Hancocks and Toowoomba opponents Red Lion.
Nicholls said his main focus was continuing his team's development and momentum having so far watched the Ipswich competition defending premiers meet all challenges this season.
Wests are also defending Combined Competition champions, having overcome Newtown last year.
"We've been working hard. We've been playing well,'' Nicholls said.
"Hopefully we'll have a decent home crowd.''
The last time Wests and Rangeville met, the Magpies won 3-2 in heavy rain and cold conditions in Toowoomba.
Wests were also without senior player Amy Nicholls and their coach.
Having played in that game, Kickbusch said Rangeville deserved respect on Sunday.
"They were quite strong through the midfield and quite skilful,'' she said.
Wests have no major injury worries and a strong squad after the team trained on Wednesday morning instead of tonight, due to the funeral of Ann Fowler.
Ann is mother of former Ipswich player and respected coach Darren, and aunty of Amy Nicholls.
Despite the one-hour session in brisk conditions, Kickbusch said it was enjoyable training so early, bringing back memories of her representative commitments with Queensland and Australia.
Combined Competition finals at the Ipswich Hockey Complex on Sunday.
1pm: Women's game between Wests and Rangeville.
2.30pm: Men's final between Hancocks and Red Lion.