Lumberjacks a cut above rest at titles
ELATED South West coach Nathan Hooper paid tribute to long-serving Ipswich and Toowoomba players after his team won yesterday's Super League championship in Brisbane.
For the first time, a team featuring the best players from the two cities united to secure the state's most prestigious hockey title ahead of normally dominant sides like Brisbane.
The victorious South West Lumberjacks team included seven players from Ipswich and nine from Toowoomba.
"For guys like Mark Pocock and Tobias (Figura) and Toddie Watson, they have been playing for Ipswich for a long time and that's their first state championship that they have won," Hooper said.
"It's good that we have the opportunity to have that for those kind of guys by joining forces with Toowoomba and playing another five of the best teams in the state."
Other Ipswich players in the Lumberjacks were Chris Mantell, Jarrod Brown, Aaron O'Bierne and Dean Jeffrey.
The Toowoomba contingent was Brent Garske, Kris Glass, Lachlan Brownhalls, James Kruger, Josh Maurice, Craig Smith, Andrew Richards, Scott Richards and David Watts.
Although yesterday's men's final between South West and Central was called off, the Lumberjacks had a superior average by 10 goals.
In a polished performance, South West had earlier beaten Central 6-0.
"Winning the final would have been great but at the end of the day, we were the best team," said Hooper who also guided the South West side which finished runners-up to Brisbane last year.
"We put ourselves in the best position. It was still a cherished victory."
Ironically, the Lumberjacks lost their opening game 4-1 to Brisbane on Saturday.
"It was a blessing in disguise really," Hooper said.
"We took a bit of stock where we were, reassessed our attitude and made sure we prepared well for each and every game."
From there, South West overpowered South Coast 2-1, Central 6-0, Wide Bay 4-3 and Northern 9-2.
Co-captains Figura and Smith led the way.
Hooper rated the standard of this year's championships as high as, if not better, than the inaugural tournament last year.
"I couldn't be more prouder of the boys in the way that they gelled and came together," he said.
"They really embraced the whole South West Queensland team identity and loved playing under the logo of the Lumberjacks.
"The way the guys combined and all really chipped in for each other was the difference between us and a lot of other teams."
The South West women's side finished fourth at the Super League championships.
The team included Ipswich-based players Kiah Ahern, Natalie Davison, Kirsten Mackay, Sarah Partlett, Sara Rogers and Carly Young.