What a battle: Two Ipswich strike forces to meet
IT'S a showdown of speed and strategy, experience and excellence.
Tonight's Ipswich A-Grade men's grand final between Norths and Hancock Brothers could be another extra-time thriller if the script goes to plan.
After Norths beat Hancocks a fortnight ago in the major semi-final shootout, that scenario has every chance of being repeated.
On what he's seen first hand this season, Norths coach Steve Profke agrees.
"It (the major semi-final) was one of those games that could have gone either way,'' he said.
"I don't think there was any better team on the day. Every-one was giving everything.''
Hancocks seized on their second chance to make the grand final by outclassing Easts 7-3 in last Sunday night's preliminary final.
"It's what they've been doing all year,'' Profke said of seeing Hancocks return to their best form. "It (the grand final) is going to be a battle.''
Hancocks are defending champions, mid-season final winners and minor premiers.
However, Norths have been the most unpredictable side in this year's Ipswich A-Grade competition.
Laced with leadership experience and youthful energy, the Devils have multiple goal-scoring options.
But when the Hancocks' attack is on song, they can be unstoppable.
Coaching the Hancocks men for the first time, Sara Rogers said a key to victory was settling quickly into the match.
"It's just starting the game at our pace,'' she said.
"Having quite a young squad they will be nervous, which will be expected.''
Rogers should know having played in many grand finals.
But she's excited like the players. "It has been a really good year,'' she said, lining up in the A-Grade women's grand final before coaching the men.
"Coaching, I'm probably more relaxed than playing.
"I have faith in the boys. If we play good hockey, we'll hopefully have a good result.''
Rogers won the Amy Korner Award for Excellence at last weekend's Ipswich Hockey Gala Dinner. In her opposing team tonight is Barry Dancer Excellence Award winner Zac Profke.
While that battle of excellence will be between goal-scoring maestro Profke and astute coach Rogers, that is just one of the many intriguing duels that could determine the victor.
In his fourth season coaching the side, Profke believes speed will be a major factor between two sides that have enjoyed many quality finals' duels the past few years.
"There's not really a weakness there,'' he said of his opponents. "They are so fast.''
Hancocks' firepower comes from a variety of sources including captain Nathan Smith, Dane Rew and Brisbane recruits Jackson Willie and Carter Chappell.
Willie is Hancocks' leading goal scorer with 41 from 19 games. That included a hat-trick last weekend.
However, Norths also have plenty of strike forces through the coach's sons Zac and Riley, along with the leadership group of Dean Jeffrey, Nick Maddocks, Jeremy Dalais and Andrew Pratt.
Rogers is acutely aware of what Norths possess.
"Zac's playing really good hockey. He's had a really good breakout year,'' the former Australian Country captain said.
"And Dean Jeffrey is always very handy wherever he plays. He's a bit of a utility these days.
"He's a very experienced player. He's won premierships before.''
Queensland under-18 representative Zac has been a major threat all season.
Younger brother Riley scored all six goals in last week-end's C-Grade grand final win for Norths.
The Ipswich brothers work together, perfecting their tomahawks.
Their proud dad Steve also praised the other Norths youngsters who accepted a mighty challenge in A-Grade this year. They include teenagers David Visser, Brad Walker and goalkeeper Cian McLaughlin.
"He's had a really good year,'' the coach said of McLaughlin.
"It's a big step up for him. He's only young but he's done everything we've asked from him.''
The value of bringing the next generation into A-Grade early is a situation both men's team coaches agree upon.
"We've got a lot of Hancocks juniors now stepping up into A-Grade and playing major parts,'' Rogers said. "It's good to see that our juniors have followed through and stayed with the club.''
Hancocks completed their training with a "normal'' session on Tuesday night.
"Everyone is looking pretty good,'' Rogers said. "They're ready to go. They're all very keen.''
However, rival coach Profke did something different. He extended the team's last workout to two hours, double the normal time.
Whether that move gives Norths an edge between two fast and skilful teams remains to be seen.
Today's senior grand finals at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
10am: R2 Grade women - Veterans v Thistles.
11.45am: R2 Grade men - Norths v Easts.
1.30pm: Reserve Grade women - Swifts v Wests White.
3.15pm: Reserve Grade men - Wests v Easts.
5pm: A-Grade women - Hancock Brothers v Wests.
6.45pm: A-Grade men - Norths v Hancock Brothers.
A-Grade men's teams.
Norths: Luke Brown, Jeremy Dalais, Mark Davidson, Steven Ihle, Dean Jeffrey, Patrick Jordan, Andrew Maddocks, Nicholas Maddocks, Cian McLaughlin, Cyle Meloury, Andrew Pratt, Riley Profke, Zac Profke, Joshua Shaw, David Visser, Bradley Walker. Other players to have assisted throughout the year: Jake Thornton, Baxter Powell, Lachlan Pomerenke.
Coach: Steve Profke. Manager: Jenny Profke.
Hancocks: Nathan Smith (captain), Jimmy Day, Kobi Tierney, Blake Douglas, Simon Drew, Aaron Dodds, Dean Pavitt, Sam Dobbie, Sam Morgan, Carter Chappell, Jackson Willie, Ryan Smith, Hayden Michel, Zac Hoyland Meaker, Dane Rew, Kyle Jackson, Bailey Hoyland.
Coach: Sara Rogers. Manager: Mick Butler.
Umpires: Kai Douglas and Leonie Young