Striking duels loom as Ipswich's best resume battle
THE battle for Ipswich's hockey supremacy is back on after two anxious defending premiers hit back with vigour.
The Hancocks men and Wests women restored this season's status quo with powerful preliminary final performances on Sunday night.
The Hancocks men outclassed Easts 7-3 at the Ipswich Hockey Complex before the Wests women outmanoeuvred Swifts 6-2 in the evening final that followed.
That has set up two mouth-watering grand finals on Saturday night.
The minor premiership-winning Hancocks men receive another shot at the fast and skilful Norths side.
The champion Wests women tackle the dangerous Hancocks combination in the season decider after some terrific battles in recent games.
However, just a week earlier, both defending premiers suffered similar fates, losing their qualifying finals in extra-time thrillers.
Hancocks captain Nathan Smith highlighted how much it means to him and his team to make the grand final again and a chance to successfully defend their title.
"Definitely we had to switch it on after a pretty ordinary performance last week,'' Smith said.
That happened on Sunday night with Jackson Willie netting a hat-trick and Hancocks' trademark firepower on target through Dane Rew, Zac Hoyland-Meaker and Carter Chappell also scoring.
Smith said playing more solid hockey and lifting their workrate inspired the Hancocks win.
Hancocks' preliminary final effort ended Easts' late charge after the Tigers eliminated Wests a week earlier.
After the women's preliminary final, Wests co-captain Amy Nicholls was also pleased to have secured another showdown with Hancocks.
"I enjoy playing them,'' Nicholls said. "It's a very competitive game every single time.''
The experienced campaigner said Sunday night's performance was more typical of what Wests can produce.
"I'm extremely happy with the girls. A great team effort,'' Nicholls said.
"I think we just had better composure this week.
"You play all year to get into a grand final and we've achieved that.''
One of Wests' strengths is their goal-scoring prowess. That was showcased on Sunday night with four different goal-getters, led by Amy Kickbusch's hat-trick.
The former Australian international said before the game she needed to do more and she delivered.
In Reserve Grade, Easts progressed to the men's grand final with a 5-4 extra-time victory over Hancocks. Easts tackle Wests in Saturday afternoon's match.
Wests White women also advanced to the grand final after beating Norths 2-0 in their Reserve Grade preliminary final. Wests White face Swifts in that grand final.
Other preliminary final winners were Easts (R2 men), Hancocks (A2 men), Thistles (R2 women) and Veterans (A2 women).
A-Grade men's preliminary final: Hancock Brothers 7 (Jackson Willie 3, Dane Rew 2, Zac Hoyland-Meaker, Carter Chappell) d Easts 3 (James Easton, Tim Woodford, Ryan Grocott).
Grand final: Saturday (6.45pm) - Hancocks v Norths.
A-Grade women's preliminary final: Wests 6 (Amy Kickbusch 3, Eden Jackat, Lauren Hess, Jade Close) d Swifts 2 (Jess Dodd, Alyce Blore).
Grand final: Saturday (5pm) - Wests v Hancocks.