HEAVY GOING: Norths and Australian Country under-21 player Aaron O’Bierne (left) jousts with Hancocks player Sam Dobbie in Saturday’s rain-affected match at Raceview. Norths won 7-1.
HEAVY GOING: Norths and Australian Country under-21 player Aaron O’Bierne (left) jousts with Hancocks player Sam Dobbie in Saturday’s rain-affected match at Raceview. Norths won 7-1. Inga Williams

Replay of showdown looming

WITH Norths and Easts battling for the minor premiership, something can be read into both sides winning 7-1 at the weekend.

That is how Norths and Easts are clearly the two best sides in the Ipswich A-grade competition.

Norths outclassed Hancocks by that score in rainy conditions on Saturday afternoon before Easts overran Wests on Sunday night.

With a week to the finals, defending premiers Easts and last year's grand final opponents Norths are headed for another thrilling showdown next month.

Easts hold a one point lead over Norths, giving the Devils a chance to secure the minor premiership if Hancocks surprise the Tigers this weekend.

However, for Norths coach Jamie Burns, the main focus is fielding a full-strength, injury-free team rather than worrying about the minor premiership.

Burns has been impressed with how well Norths' representative players have slotted back into the side after recent Super League and Australian Country Championships.

"They are sharp as at the moment," Burns said of lightning-fast Aaron O'Bierne, experienced campaigner Mark Pocock and goal-scoring speedster Dean Jeffrey.

"It adds that extra bonus to us.

"When you're playing at that higher level competition, it does sharpen you up when they come back."

O'Bierne was recently named in the Australian Country under-21 side after impressing for his state at the national championships in Toowoomba.

Norths stalwart Mark Pocock was part of the same Queensland Country team that made the final.

Jeffrey fine-tuned for the Ipswich finals by representing South Australia.

The week of matches the Norths trio benefited from was followed by Tobias Figura winning the Brisbane Hockey Association Medal as player of the year.

Representing Valley Hockey Club, Figura polled 23 votes to beat Kris Glass (Commercial Hockey Club) by four votes.

It was the second year in a row that an Ipswich player has won the award. Jacob Burns won the honour for Commercial in 2013.

Former Queensland Blades representative Figura has played 192 first-grade games for Valley and scored 99 goals since making his debut for the club in 2001.

Back in Ipswich, Figura played as a striker for Norths in their latest victory over Hancocks, signalling the Devils are gearing up for another shot at grand final glory.

"The form he's in at the moment, he's untouchable," Burns said of consistent performer Figura.

However, the Norths mentor was also pleased with the overall team performance.

"We should be pretty good now," Burns said.

"This weekend will be our first week we have everybody. They are working for each other."

In the women's A-grade competition, Swifts overcame Thistles 5-0, Hancocks returned to winning form, beating Norths 3-2 and Wests held out Bellbowrie 2-1.

Wests young guys Jade Emblem and Gabby Nicholls scored for Wests. Emblem was recently named in the Australian Country under-21 side.

In other representative news, Hancocks teenager Lyla Eleison returned from the national schoolgirls titles in Adelaide, having shared in Queensland's grand final win and earning Australian selection.

She's secured a trip to Europe.

Look out for a separate story on Layla's achievements.

State of play

The final four teams have been decided in the Ipswich A-grade women's competition, to join the four men's teams chasing grand final honours next month.

Easts or Norths can still win the men's minor premiership. That will be decided this weekend when Norths play Wests and Easts face Hancocks.

Hancocks, Swifts, Bellbowrie and Wests are the women's sides to qualify for the finals.

A Grade men: Easts 38, Norths 37, Hancock Brothers 23, Wests 14.

A Grade women: Hancock Brothers 42, Swifts 34, Bellbowrie 24 (GD +4), Wests -24 (GD -11), Norths 20, Thistles 9.



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