Heat plays its part in hockey
WHILE the sun scorched down Grafton’s men’s hockey players did not want to be anywhere else but on field last weekend.
The early start to the season made for tough going for most of the teams who struggled to create new midfield combinations and set play synergy.
In the first game of the round the new-look Sailors, led by the evergreen Scott Smith, drew 0-0 with the John Taylor-coached Royals on the Brent Livermore Field.
Sailors have been decimated with the loss of key players from last year and will sorely miss the sublime skills of Jye Reardon who is concentrating on competing in this year’s Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
Toss in the absence of university-bound strikers Drew Cooper and Mat Barton and the Sailors’ others players must step up.
The youthful outfit will tend to struggle on exposed form but have gained the expertise of Arvos’ stalwarts Dave Young and 46-year-old Michael Wunderlich which will balance out the average age of the lineup.
The Royals have also lost the services of representative player Reece Henwood, signed for strong Sydney club Gordon North Sydney, and Jamie Lane, who returned to his former club the Barbarians.
Star players Mick Summers and Matt Lobsey were unavailable due to the First Grade cricket grand final.
The game could be described as pedestrian with neither side able to control the ball for long periods and set plays from short corners were well below the usual standard. The major exceptions were goalkeepers James Patterson and Paul Stapleton, who were unbelievable in saving raids.
“It can only get better,” Royals coach John Taylor said.
In the other game premiership heavyweights Barbarians and City Bears toughed out a 1-1 draw in the more comfortable conditions later in the day. Both teams were missing players to the cricket grand finals but the history of bad blood made sure that both teams made a real fist of the game.