Sharpshooter Amy's timely message for beaten premiers
HOCKEY: At their best, defending Ipswich A-Grade premiers Wests can be unbeatable. But when they let their guard down, they are vulnerable.
That's the honest assessment of former international player Amy Kickbusch who shared in her team's qualifying final disappointment last weekend.
Preparing for a second chance in Sunday's A-Grade preliminary final, Kickbusch said Wests suffered an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration, losing 4-3 to Hancocks.
After leading 3-1, the full-strength Magpies combination allowed the gritty Hancocks side to draw level at 3-3 and force extra-time.
Hancocks capitalised with Queensland Scorchers recruit Layla Eleison scoring the thrilling winning goal after the hooter in extra-time.
"I feel like we probably were a bit nervous and we didn't play our best,'' Kickbusch said.
"But they (Hancocks) played really well and it just shows us where we've got to be and step up to if we want to beat them in the final, if we make it.''
Wests coasted into another Ipswich grand final series having dominated the regular season and beaten Toowoomba's top side Newtown 5-0 in the annual Combined Competition final.
However, Hancocks signalled they would be a major threat after pushing Wests all the way in the mid-season final. The Magpies won that battle 5-3 after being under immense pressure.
"We struggle to up our game when we need to,'' Kickbusch, 32, said, looking back on last weekend's loss.
"We kind of play a couple of weaker teams and then I guess we need to step up into a different gear and we just couldn't find it.
"Then the nerves kicked in.''
However, the Ipswich Central State School year 4 teacher said Wests were capable of rebounding strongly.
"We have a lot of experience and that's probably the best thing,'' said Kickbusch, who represented Australia in 51 international games between 2005 and 2011.
"We've refocused this week and we've got to put the game in this weekend or we won't even be in the final.
"We need to make sure we're up all the time, especially this time of season.''
After scoring a hat-trick in last year's 8-1 grand final win over Hancocks, Kickbusch is keen to fire up in Sunday night's preliminary final.
She's the team's top goal scorer with 37 from 18 games this season.
"I'm pretty happy,'' the quality striker said, having focused on playing for Wests without extra Brisbane competition commitments.
"I'm happy for the young girls coming through, to watch them and kind of hopefully they start to take over. But it's nice to be there to support them and help them out.
"We need more (goals). I should probably up my game too.''
While Wests had Swifts' measure throughout the season, Kickbusch said the Magpies would not take them lightly, knowing another grand final spot was on the line.
"Anything can happen in a final,'' the Ipswich born and bred achiever said.
"We need to get back on track and just get on top early.
"The more we let them into the game, the more trouble we will be in.
"We have a really good team and when everyone is playing really well, I feel like we're unbeatable.
"We just have to make sure we are playing at our best. We need to switch on straight away.''
The Hancocks A-Grade men are also looking to capitalise on their second chance in tomorrow's preliminary final.
Second-placed Norths won 8-6 in a shootout, leaving defending champions Hancocks to tackle Easts in the do-or-die encounter at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
Those exciting contests will wrap up another massive weekend of finals hockey, ignited by the junior grand finals on Saturday.
Wests are the best represented junior club with grand final teams in the three girls divisions and C Grade boys decider.
Other clubs with junior grand final hopes are Easts and Swifts (two teams each), along with Thistles, Hancock Brothers, Combos and Norths.
Ipswich hockey finals schedule
Saturday's junior grand finals
9am: E Grade girls - Wests v Swifts
10.30am: E Grade boys - Easts Gold v Hancock Brothers
Noon: D Grade girls - Wests v Swifts
1.45pm: D Grade boys - Easts v Combos
3.30pm: C Grade girls - Wests v Thistles
5.15pm: C Grade boys - Wests v Norths
Saturday's senior preliminary final
5.15pm: A2 Grade women - Vets v Wests
7pm: A2 Grade men - Norths v Hancock Brothers
Sunday's senior preliminary finals
10am: R2 Grade men - Easts v Wests
11.45am: R2 Grade women - Swifts v Thistles
1.30pm: Reserve Grade men - Easts v Hancock Brothers
3.15pm: Reserve Grade women - Wests White v Norths
5pm: A Grade men - Hancock Brothers v Easts
6.45pm: A Grade women - Wests v Swifts