Origin-style unity bolsters success
SINCE the Super League championships started, the South West Queensland men have featured in every final and won two titles.
However, the success is down to a simple ingredient according to current coach Steve Hawthorne. That is the way the Ipswich and Toowoomba players work for each other at regional level.
"We liken it to the Origin (Queensland rugby league) team a little bit,'' Hawthorne said.
"The core of the team has been there for four years. Just a few small changes here and there.''
Toowoomba-based Hawthorne has been a coach or manager of South West since the new concept was launched in 2012.
He's built a successful formula with Ipswich hockey mentor Nathan Hooper, who is now Queensland Country coach.
Hawthorne said although the Ipswich and Toowoomba players were often rivals at club and state open championship level, they combined well when called up to represent the SWQ Lumberjacks.
Having won the past two championships after losing to Brisbane in the inaugural final, the Lumberjacks are expected to be strong contenders again this weekend.
However, they'll have to do it without experienced player Kris Glass. He suffered what looks like a season-ending collarbone injury playing for Commercial in the Brisbane competition.
Losing Glass has given shadow player Todd Watson a call-up.
Watson becomes the eighth Ipswich-based player contesting the three-day championships at the State Hockey Centre.
The others are co-captain Tobias Figura, Mark Pocock, Chris Mantell, Aaron O'Bierne, Josh Davis, Jarrod Brown and newcomer Jay Pavitt.
The South West Queensland women's team also has a strong Ipswich presence, represented by Sara Rogers, Sarah Parlett, Natalie Davison, Layla Eleison, Eden Jackat, Lauren Hess and Jade Emblem.
Hawthorne planned his final team session last night, confident the team could rally after losing one of Queensland's strongest defenders in Glass.
"We'll stay positive,'' he said, happy with the increased depth.
"The numbers for the trials were very very strong, which is a great sign for our little South West corner that we've got going on here between Toowoomba and Ipswich.''
Toowoomba won the recent state open titles with Ipswich unlucky not to play in the final.
Hawthorne was also happy to have manager and former national league player Ryan Williams playing an important role under the shorter format of 15 minute quarters.
"He's like a subject matter expert,'' Hawthorne said. "He's a very good man to have on side.''
South West's first game is against Wide Bay at 8am on Saturday.
A round robin series is played over the weekend leading into the finals on Monday.
The State Hockey Centre is at 400-420 Lytton Road, Colmslie.