Grafton’s Sam Anderson is at full stretch against Sydney in the under-17 state carnival.
Grafton’s Sam Anderson is at full stretch against Sydney in the under-17 state carnival.

Plucky Grafton effort

GRAFTON’S two under-17 boys teams have returned from the NSW hockey championships in Lithgow with commendable fifth placings in their respective divisions.

The A team, playing in division one for the first time in many years after winning promotion last year, lost 4-1 to Tamworth in its first match.

After starting poorly with a disjointed effort, Tamworth converted a penalty corner in the fourth minute before Grafton replied with a penalty corner conversion by the Weller boys. Another corner conversion to Tamworth on the stroke of half-time was followed by a solo effort by their centre half and a final corner on full-time.

Grafton got off to a flier in the second game against Lithgow with Mackenzie Davies intercepting a clearance and penetrating the right side of the circle, unleashing a great shot past the goalie inside the left post with only 40 seconds on the clock.

Grafton scored again in the fifth minute when clever lead-up play by Mitchell Thomas and Sam Anderson enabled Jack Taylor on the goal line to pass back to Jordan Weller who pushed the ball to the left of the goalie.

The rest of the first half was a real scrap with Aiden Camerin in goals making some solid saves. In the second half, Lithgow scored with a field goal in the second minute.

In a physical contest with nine cards issued, both teams had players in the sin bin with Lithgow receiving six of the cards and being reduced to nine players at one stage before Grafton triumphed 2-1.

With a must-win game against the classy Sydney side for semi-final qualification, the Grafton boys viewed the match with some trepidation, having watched Sydney trounce Tamworth 13-2 the previous afternoon.

Coach Ray Loy devised a defensive counter-attacking strategy which upset the dominant Sydney’s rhythm.

But Grafton went down 3-0 despite a 100 per cent effort by all players. Loy was particularly pleased with the penalty corner defence with Sydney failing to convert any of the 15 penalty corners. But he was disappointed Grafton didn’t make more of its few attacking opportunities.

In the play-off for fifth position, McCarthur scored first with a penalty corner in the 18th minute before Grafton replied with their goal of the tournament.

After clever ball control by Nick Weller on the left sideline near halfway, left winger Davies combined with left inner Sam Anderson before the overlapping Davies penetrated the circle and flicked over the goalie.

Just after halftime a crucial turnover on halfway by Grafton was punished with the skilful McCarthur centre forward beating Cameron on a one-on-one situation. Andrew Loy equalised with a strong solo effort, beating several opponents and tomahawking a shot inside the left post. Josh Lollback grabbed the winner in the 52nd minute, sweeping in a rebound off the goalie. Mitchell Thomas was players’ player while Cameron received the coach’s award.

Grafton, fielding a second side at state level for the first time, got off to a very slow start as eventual winners Southern Highland opened a 7-0 halftime lead.

But the Grafton boys’ never-say-die attitude produced late goals by Brent Russ and Nick Fahey, adding respect to a final 10-2 scoreline.

The second game against Sydney 3 was played on grass and the Grafton boys were not used to the “bounce” of the ball, not having played on grass for a couple of years.

In a fairly scrappy game by both sides, Sydney took their chances for a 3-1 win. Grafton’s third game of the day was a fairly tight game with many opportunities not being converted.

Eventually Russ took his chances to slot a couple of cracking shots inside the right post. Tom Dougherty had a strong game at centre-half, being everywhere in defence and attack.

The next day, Grafton was expected to comfortably account for Orange, also a young and inexperienced team which hadn’t won a game.

At halftime it was 1-all but the Grafton boys “woke up” to notch some superb goals, showing the promise of what might have been. Goal scorers were Russ (2), Cody Cameron (1), Mitch Rose (1) and Anthony Skinner (1).

In the play-off game for fifth against Illawarra 2, the Grafton boys went out with the attitude of just enjoying themselves and this showed in patches of good passing play.

Goals were scored by Russ (2), one where he showed Anthony how to execute the tomahawk to score a great goal, Cody Cameron (1), Mitchell Rose (1) and Tom Dougherty (1).

All the boys played well to end the carnival and came away with their heads held high.

Finalists in the division were Southern Highlands and Sydney which showed Grafton must have been in the harder pool. Southern Highlands took the spoils 2-0.

Players’ player for the pool games was Tom Dougherty while Mitchell Rose picked up the coach’s award, showing continued improvement with every game.

A big thanks to the parents Michelle, Cheryl, Sue, Lissa, Grant, Kaylene, Liz, Gail and Bill, the assistant manager and wildlife expert who helped with team organising.

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