Nathan Butterick controls the ball for the Grafton Opens side at the Hockey NSW State Championships in Sydney.
Nathan Butterick controls the ball for the Grafton Opens side at the Hockey NSW State Championships in Sydney. Facebook

Grafton face relegation risk despite strong effort

MEN'S HOCKEY: Grafton's Open Men's side will face a nervous wait to find out if they will play in Division 2 at next year's Hockey NSW Open State Championships.

The resilient Grafton side have a knack of surviving in the top division for the past few seasons, but were unable to keep the streak going after they lost their relegation match 7-2 against Lithgow yesterday.

Whether they drop back to Division 2 or will rely on results in the lower grades, Grafton manager Mick Russ said it was still a tough finish for the side.

"It was a tough weekend, but it always is when we go down for the State titles,” he said.

"The boys came up against some quality opposition, you just couldn't fault the effort.

"Everyone, from the oldest blokes to the youngest blokes, threw everything they had into each match. We were in every game until the final whistle.

"I think it was one of the best performances we have put in for a number of years.”

Russ said his side struggled to comprehend a rule change at the championships which saw sides awarded an extra one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper if they scored a field goal. The extra opportunity was not given for goals scored by penalty corner.

The rule has been approved for the upcoming Australian Hockey League season and was being trialled at the tournament.

"It was just a bit hard to get your head around the change,” Russ said. "When you're playing at 2-1 down your head is in the game, but make that 4-1 and it is a much different story.”

Grafton gave a rare opportunity to junior player Tyler Gaddes who was in Sydney for school hockey trials.

"We gave him a game, and he said he would be back next year,” Russ said. "That is the real point of all this, to give the young blokes something to aspire to in the future.”



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