Scott Smith of Sailors, Ray Loy of Barbarians, Mick Russ of Bears and John Taylor of Royals.
Scott Smith of Sailors, Ray Loy of Barbarians, Mick Russ of Bears and John Taylor of Royals.

Hockey season to hit off

IT SEEMS such a short time ago Grafton Hockey held its greatest grand final day when more than 3000 people passed through the gates. In A-grade men, Bears scraped home against Barbarians while Kylies took out the A-grade women.

This year all grades from under-7 to men’s A-grade will start this week. Two A-grade sides have emerged already based on player retention as the teams to beat. Barbarians, last year’s runners up, have maintained their nucleus while Coffs Southside has built an even stronger base of what is virtually a Coffs Harbour representative team.

Bears, last year’s champions, are rebuilding and will be introducing up to seven juniors to their A-grade. They will be lacking in big match experience, but not skill. They will rely on tried players like David Dart and super goalie Dean Broomhall. Royals also share the same predicament but it is noted that in the under-16 grand final of 2009 two Royals teams played off. So like Bears, they have some tremendous juniors. State player Mitchell Thomas will be a key. The loss of Australian country player Rhys Henwood will be a factor with Matt Lobsey now their main man.

Sailors have been decimated and are two years away from having their junior talent taking on A-grade. But any side with former NSW under-21 and NSW under-16 coach Scott Smith will improve. The loss of NSW under-18 midfielder Quentin Pursey and his NSWCHS mates in Drew Cooper and Matt Barton are considerable losses. All are now attending university in Newcastle and have lined up with the Gordon club in Sydney.

Avros, who struggled to be competitive last year, have linked with Sailors and will be called Sailors/Avros. The rest will strengthen their skills in B-grade and hopefully return in the 2011 A-grade. The rebuilding of teams is a perennial problem for Grafton - so many depart each year for education and work. The season opens tonight in the 10-team under-16 competition. Games start at 6pm with match of the round being the 7.10pm. game between Barbarians Tune dogs and Royals. Grafton Hockey Association has added the Grafton under-18 women teams to the competition to help improve their skills against the strength and speed of the boys teams. On Saturday, junior boys gets under way with the under-7s and 9s playing mod hockey on fields 5A and 5B. First games are at 11.30am for under-7s and teams in both age divisions will play a number of shortened games to start the season. Under-11s and 13s with a start of 12.20pm will play on the Brent Livermore field in a normal round. Men’s grades have a record number of teams with 22 contesting the grades with all matches played on a Sunday.

Matches of the round:

A Grade - City Bears v Barbarians - a replay of last year’s grand final at 4.45pm.

B Grade - Barbarians Victors v Royal Raiders at 4.45pm.

C Grade - Sailors v Avros at 1pm.

CRCA cricket finals are this weekend. CRCA has allowed hockey the courtesy playing before Easter. Park near the grass fields and not Plane Tree Avenue to allow cricket followers to enjoy grand final day.

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