Strange times, surprises boost intrigue in winter sport
STRANGE situations often create unusual results in sport.
However, one of Ipswich's most experienced players and rising coaches doesn't mind a benefit occurring in this year's delayed season.
Hancocks captain and men's coach Sara Rogers is delighted to see how tight the Ipswich A-Grade competitions are after the four-month coronavirus shutdown.
"It is probably unusual circumstances,'' Rogers said of the current state of affairs where only one point separates the first, second and third sides in both competitions.
"No team has really had the build-up they would have liked to come in with.
"It's a bit hard to judge with the points system but it is nice that it's nice and close.''
Ipswich hockey fixtures only resumed on July 17 under the return to play COVID-safe conditions.
Since then, the weekend results have been difficult to predict with most top grade sides taking points off each other.
In the men's series, Hancocks regained top spot after a hard-fought 3-2 win over defending premiers Norths.
However, Hancocks are only one point ahead of the Devils who have the same points and superior goal difference over third-placed Easts.
The Wests men have yet to register a point, which in itself is a peculiar predicament for the Magpies. Wests lost their latest game 1-0 to big improvers Easts.
Hancocks restored some lost pride in a back and forth duel against Norths after a surprise recent 2-2 draw against the Tigers.
"It was good to see that they were disappointed with the draw,'' Rogers said.
"I think we pride ourselves on playing good hockey all the time and that wasn't our best hockey that night.''
It was a more typical effort from Hancocks in Sunday night's clash.
"It was a very good comeback win,'' Rogers said.
"We tended to lose games like that in the past so it was good to actually win a game in the last couple of seconds rather that lose.
"It's good to have the same team turn up every week. The commitment to training is really good too.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with all of the boys and they're starting to come together at a pretty good time now.''
The A-Grade women's competition is a similar neck-in-neck battle although a new team is leading the way.
Thistles hold a one-point advantage over Hancocks and Wests following the latest results.
After two draws and a breakthrough win over Easts, Thistles continued their strong form with a 2-0 victory over Hancocks at the weekend.
Defending premiers Wests kept in touch with a 4-1 success over winless Easts.
Like the Wests men, the Easts women are toiling hard without any early rewards.
The rise of Thistles has increased interest in the A-Grade women's series.
"They are looking quite good,'' Rogers said, fresh from playing against the competition leaders.
The Thistles team coached by the astute Jay Pavitt includes a number of Brisbane grade players Rogers knows and faces regularly.
The result is strengthening the Ipswich competition.
"Hancocks are very much up for the challenge,'' Rogers said.
"We know we can compete and our team's yesterday result wasn't a fair indication of the game. I think we probably had more genuine chances. We just didn't convert.''
Rogers hoped that pointed to a terrific final series, given the injection of outside talent.
She said young Hancocks players like Lily Evans were benefiting from quality Brisbane competition opponents.
Hancocks have also added Bree and Kelly Armstrong, who have past connections to the club.
Hancocks lead the Reserve Grade men's, A2 men's and E-Grade boys competitions.
"We pride ourselves on being a strong club,'' the ever-loyal Rogers said, pleased to see so many Hancocks players and supporters return.
"As we've done for many years, it's good to see the results paying off, especially for the volunteers and people behind the scenes that don't get the same sort of recognition.''
Northern Strikers, Swifts and Easts are other clubs in the lower grades setting the early pace in a season never experienced before.
A Grade men: Hancocks 8, Norths 7 (+6), Easts 7 (-4), Wests 0.
A Grade women: Thistles 8, Hancocks 7 (+5), Wests 7 (+2), Easts 0.
Reserve Grade men: Hancocks 12, Norths 6, Wests 3 (-3), Easts 3 (-8).
Reserve Grade women: Northern Strikers 11, Thistles 9, Swifts 7 (+1), Wests 7 (-2), Easts 4, Hancocks 2.
R2 men: Norths 12, Easts Black 9, Bellbowrie 6 (+7), Hancocks 6 (-5), Easts Gold 3.
R2 women: Swifts 10, Veterans 7, Bellbowrie Gold 6, Easts 0 (-8), Bellbowrie Green 0 (-14).
A2 men: Hancocks 12, Swifts 9, Easts 1 (-7), Northern Strikers 1 (-14).
A2 women: Bellbowrie 10, Thistles 7 (+6), Norths 7 (+2), Vets 6, Hancocks 1 (-6), Swifts 1 (-10).
C Grade girls: Norths 12, Hancocks 7, Thistles 3, Bellbowrie 0.
D Grade boys: Easts 12, Wests 6 (+6), Northern Strikers 6 (-4), Hancocks 0.
D Grade girls: North Western Suburbs 10, Swifts 9, Easts 4, Hancocks 0.
E Grade boys: Hancocks 12, Norths 6 (+13), Easts Black 6 (+2), Easts Gold 0 (-13), Western Strikers 0 (-17).
E Grade girls: Easts 9, Norths 6 (+9), Western Strikers 6 (-4), Thistles 3, Swifts 0.
Men and boys - August 7-9
A Grade: Easts 1 (Keegen Bezuidenhoit) d Wests 0; Hancock Brothers 3 (Zac Hoyland-Meaker, Jackson Willie, Kai Douglas) d Norths 2 (Zac Profke, Trent Goldstei).
Reserve Grade: Hancock Brothers 6 (C Banditt 2, R Smith 2, J Pavitt, J Butta) d Norths 1 (R Profke); Easts 4 (S Bayliss, J Robertson, M Schultz, P Malcolm) d Wests 3 (M Wiseman 3).
R2 Grade: Easts Black 4 (A Gawthorne, J Gearing, G Singh, A Macdonald) d Hancock Brothers 1 (E Styles-McKinnon); Easts Gold 3 (A Hansen 2, R Pickering) d Wests 0; Norths 3 (T Ross 2, Wode) d Bellbowrie 0.
A2 Grade: Hancock Brothers 8 (J Burns 4, D Howells 2, R Sherlock, R Hiet) d Northern Strikers 3 (A Woods 3); Swifts 3 (L Pomery, Z Pascoe, W Pascoe) d Easts 2 (T Cook 2).
D Grade: Easts 3 (N Capallano, B McPherson, L Morris) d Hancock Brothers 1 (C White); Northern Strikers 4 (J Donald 3, L Sheehan) d Wests 3 (H Black 2, T Butler).
E Grade: Norths 8 (K Hill 4, E Bauer, M Doyle, T Campbell) d Western Strikers 0; Hancock Brothers 2 (M Hogan, A Hanley) d Easts Black 0.
Women and girls - August 7-9
A Grade: Wests 4 (Gabby Nicholls, Georgia Stenzel, Jade Close, Chloe Daly) d Easts 1 (Ashley Hansen); Thistles 2 (Talicia Canty, Morgan Gallagher) d Hancock Brothers 0.
Reserve Grade: Thistles 1 (L Pearce) d Swifts 0; Northern Strikers 2 (S Parlett, S Ashton) d Easts 1 (B Andlemac); Wests 1 (J Nicholls) dew Hancock Brothers 1 (K Nunn); Swifts 2 (J Dodd, M Bool) d Easts 0; Northern Strikers 2 (L Blackman, C Brown) d Wests 0; Hancock Brothers 1 (L Evans) drew Thistles 1 (C Gotting).
R2 Grade: Swift 6 (A Mirallez 2, A Geeves 2, L Petersen, L Bramham) d Bellbowrie Green 0; Vets 3 (J Peters 3) d Easts 0.
A2 Grade: Bellbowrie 4 (D Greenalsh 3, H Sheehan) d Swifts 1(S Brown); Vets 3 (D Dannock, R Fitzgerald, A Burt) d Hancock Brothers 1 (T Heit); Thistles 5 (C Gotting 2, C Liddell, K Hislop, L Steele) d Norths 0.
C Grade: Hancock Brothers 1 (L Doyle) drew Bellbowrie 1 (G Richardson); Norths 3 (D Wenzel-Stephan 2, S Smith) d Thistles 0.
D Grade: Swifts 2 (G Dombroski, A Harris) d Easts 0; North Western Strikers 5 (T McPeake 2, A Wells, M Doyle, S Long) d Hancock Brothers 0.
E Grade: Norths 7 (H Johnson 3, B Profke 2, C Burns, K Parlett) d Western Strikers 0; Easts 11 (J Hansen 3, S Savage 2, D Hollis 2, L Smith 2, E Denton, V Tange) d Thistles 0.