HANDY EFFORTS: Skilful Wests and Hancocks players jostle for possession in the J1 grand final.
HANDY EFFORTS: Skilful Wests and Hancocks players jostle for possession in the J1 grand final. Franca Tigani

Magpies team fly high on spirit

"THANK you coach''.

With those simple words, the victorious Wests J1 boys completed a memorable year honouring a club stalwart who guided them.

After winning Saturday's grand final 7-2, each player put their name inside a decorative sheep on the front on a card.

Inside the card, the young players wrote personal messages and a team thank you recognising how Rod Lewis "supported and coached each person and shaped each of them into the best players they can be, both individually and as a team.''

For Lewis, the team gesture was reward for the club's commitment to youth.

"They've been together for about seven years now,'' Lewis said.

"We had some come from J2 this year but I'm very happy.''

Lewis was assistant coach last year, returning to the main job this season after many years coaching in Ipswich.

"It's probably close to 600 games I'd say,'' Lewis said.

"It's good for the kids. If one kid can one learn one thing in one year, I've done my job.''

But the card of thanks wasn't the only acknowledgement of what the spirited Wests team achieved.

As the young players united to celebrate, a magpie landed on the dugout roof, stopped and overlooked the winners, before flying off as it granting its approval.

It was a magpie congratulating the Magpies.

Earlier, the club's black and white mascot Frank, a magpie statue, was fittingly positioned on the dugout bench overlooking the field.

"Frank's been with us for 35 years,'' Lewis said. "He jumped on board a bus at Bundaberg one night.

"We won't let him go.''

Led by Ipswich and state player Mitchell Moran with three goals, Wests only led 3-2 at halftime before showcasing their speed and skill.

Lewis was surprised by the winning margin in a game featuring a number of Ipswich's under 15 players who came second at the state titles this year.

Some of the goals were sensational.

Lewis was delighted to see the next generation coming through, some of them already having played senior hockey.

"They're very good at training. They listen,'' Lewis said.

"I might be a bit tough sometimes but they listen.

"It's no fluke. It's all hard work at training.''



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