From Tassie to Ipswich: Easts coach backs club
HOCKEY: Having enjoyed his time in the Ipswich competition so much, former Tasmanian Tom Cook welcomed the opportunity to do more coaching.
The self-confessed "hockey tragic'' fulfils that role again this season, starting at Raceview on Friday night.
Cook is coaching the Easts A-Grade men's side tackling Wests in the 2019 season opener at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
"It's good to be the first off the rank actually,'' Cook said, having worked with UQ junior teams since joining the Ipswich competition five years ago.
"With all the pre-season lead-up, people are pretty keen to hit the turf and get running straight away.''
Cook, 37, takes on the position heralding a new era for the proud Ipswich club.
"We're pretty excited with the season ahead,'' he said.
"The club has made a bit of a strategic decision to look to our future.
"We've identified that a lot of our strong leaders are to that point where they are starting to look to family commitments and things that prevent significant commitment at that A-Grade level.
"So while we've still got them at our disposal, we want to use them to help build that new foundation at the club.''
That means bringing in more young players to work with some of Ipswich's most loyal hockey campaigners.
Kyle Sippel has been appointed new club captain.
"He really stood out as that next leader for us to integrate the 17, 18, 19 year olds that they are bringing through to that A-Grade squad now,'' Cook said.
Sippel will be supported by former on-field leaders including Steve Bayliss, Chris Mantell and Jacob Robertson.
Cook is a former Tasmanian under-17 state captain who worked with Australian Kookaburras players like triple Olympian Matt Wells.
He coached successful junior and senior teams in his home state before moving north where he became acquainted with Ipswich through his family involvement with UQ.
A junior team called UQ/Hearts won the JI premiership playing in Ipswich during the 2016 season. When UQ withdrew from the Ipswich competition, some players remained.
"The boys really enjoyed the atmosphere and the locality and the environment, the whole community,'' Cook said.
"A massive chunk of them came across to Easts and have been playing there for the last couple of years.''
Players like Sebastian Miller and Tom's son Joseph played A-Grade last season.
Young goalkeeper Seth Bolton is another of the new breed of Easts players building on past traditions.
"I can't wait to see them really make that next step too,'' the Easts coach said.
"I'm really excited for Seth this year. This is a great opportunity to have some fantastic games and now it's his time to shine.''
Bellbowrie under-18 player Max Schultz has also joined the Tigers combination.
With the Easts A-Grade coaching role available, Cook highlighted his ongoing passion for the game.
"You step up to the plate and help out when the opportunity arises and you can see that you can add value,'' Cook said, having enjoyed working in the lower grades.
"Easts is a fantastic club.''
Cook last year received Easts' club person of the year award.
He is being assisted this year by Easts manager Sandie Sallaway.
The A-Grade squad started the pre-season in January with a heavy running routine before moving to the turf.
"We've had plenty of time to get them together,'' Cook said.
Friday's season opener between Easts and Wests is at 7pm.
Easts also have men's teams in the Reserve Grade and R2 competitions this season.
For the first time in a decade, Reserve Grade and R2 women's combinations will fly the Tigers colours.
The junior teams are in under-11, under-13 and under-15 (boys), joined by an under-11 girls' side.
Matches in all senior and junior grades open the new season this weekend.