Grafton Hockey Association targeting junior growth
PLAYER numbers in the Grafton Hockey Association men's competitions are higher than ever this season.
Now, Chris Blanchard is targeting juniors.
The GHA executive officer reflected on his first few months in the position, which he took over from Bruce Carle late last year.
Overall, Blanchard has had a busy, but successful run so far, and shows no plans of slowing down.
"Everyone's getting back into the swing of things and we'll be challenging Lismore in the senior grades soon," Blanchard said.
"It's been pretty good. You always get some teething issues at the start of the season but everything has gone well so far."
Hockey's popularity in the Clarence Valley is common knowledge, with games packing out the Fisher Park complex all weekend.
Finding a car park is nearly impossible on Saturdays, regardless if the games involve juniors or seniors, with Blanchard reporting many people opt to watch the game live at the ground.
"We've had really good numbers down there, especially the first week," Blanchard said.
"Last week had a few deferred games because we had teams away on rep duty.
"But it's been great seeing so many people out watching hockey."
While the senior competitions benefit from more than 20 teams across four tiers, Blanchard admitted the juniors needed some work.
Numbers were slightly down in the junior competitions, and the GHA was working hard to renew interest among the younger age groups.
"Joel (Ward, administration officer) has been doing the rounds at schools and we're getting together a local afternoon program similar to AFL's Auskick," Blanchard said.
"The aim of that is to introduce them to sport and get them playing it.
"Getting their interest in the sport is the main part of growing those numbers. I guess parents aren't putting their kids in every sport - they have to choose one these days, and we have to work to make that one hockey."