During the Grafton hockey A grade match between Sailors and Bears at the Brett Livermore Hockey fields on Sunday, Sailors Scott Smith tries to correct his fall during the match. Photo: Debrah Novak
During the Grafton hockey A grade match between Sailors and Bears at the Brett Livermore Hockey fields on Sunday, Sailors Scott Smith tries to correct his fall during the match. Photo: Debrah Novak

Sailors, Cubs taste A-grade

FOR Sailors and City Bears Cubs, 2011 is all about getting a taste of the top grade.

Both teams have entered the men’s A grade competition with the realistic view that winning the competition may be a few years down the track.

But ask Cub’s coach and player Peter Herden and he’ll tell you both teams are about giving their rising stars a chance to shine and gain valuable experience.

On Sunday Cubs and Sailors may not have bothered the scoreboard attendant after their 0-all draw but according to Herden there were positive signs from both teams.

“There were a lot of missed opportunities from both sides but overall it was a good game of hockey,” Herden told the Examiner yesterday.

“There were plenty of attacking raids but the last line of defence from both teams was outstanding.”

Herden admits his side may struggle against some of the more fancied sides in the competition but at this stage is focusing on ‘player improvement’.

“The young kids are only going to improve. I reckon they’re only 12 months off playing A grade on a regular basis,” he explains.

“We don’t expect to win a hell of a lot of games but as long as we remain competitive we’ll have a good season.”

The Bears Cubs are mostly made up of C grade players with a sprinkling of old heads. And according to Herden the reason for the sudden jump to A grade was to ensure players remain with the club.

“Due to the pulling up of the old turf a number of our players had trouble committing to playing C grade on Friday nights,” Herden said.

“They had other sporting commitments on Friday nights so we decided to enter the team in A grade so they could play together and remain with the Bears club.”

Although both Cubs and Sailors failed to find the back of the net Herden said he was impressed with a couple of his young guns on the night.

“I thought Nathan Butterick and Dan Colbert were the pick of our players,” Herden said.

Sailors are also a team on the rise who, with coaching guru Scott Smith at the helm, will be a force in coming years.

Sailors A grade manager Tom Howard, like Herden, believed his side was certainly on the up.

“We’re also going through a rebuilding stage and under Scott the young players are learning a lot,” Howard said.

“Scott is a very good leader and has given the side structure and a game plan to work on.”

For Sailors, Ryland O’Connell was in the thick of the action against Cubs with teammate Barney Howard giving the opposition defence plenty to think about with his attacking raids up front.

City Bears had the game in the bag against last year’s premiers Royals but lost their way late in the second half.

Up 2-0 just after the break Bears lack of match fitness proved costly as Royals staged a remarkable comeback to snatch a thrilling 2-all draw.

With star players Matt Lobsey and Rhys Henwood back on deck the John Taylor-coached Royals came home with a wet sail after a lack-lustre start to the game.

Bears captain Dave Kelly put the loss down to his side running out of steam late in the second half.

“Our lack of match fitness really showed,” Kelly admitted.

“We were 2-nil up and let them back into the game. We scored just after the break but the rest of the game was pretty much theirs.

“It was an exciting game but Matt Lobsey and Henwood made too many dangerous runs which stretched our defence.”

Kelly added his side desperately needs some game-time to get their season back on track.

“We certainly need our fitness to improve. We copped a bye last week, they had a training camp before that so we ended up not playing for three weeks,” Kelly said.



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