Young hockey stars set for 'challenge'
IN a week when Australian Kookaburra great Brent Livermore returned home to help develop Grafton's hockey talent, an exciting crop of the Clarence Valley's next generation are readying themselves to compete in the annual Country versus City Challenge this weekend.
Competing in various country teams, Jacob Purser, Harry Fahey, Chris Jurd, Mitchell Lollback and Ashlee Danvers will travel south for a chance to confront the best players the metropolitan areas have to offer at the Bathurst Hockey Weekend.
The Hockey Weekend, an extravaganza of hockey action, will also feature the NSW Arrows and Waratahs facing the Canberra Strikers and Lakers in the opening round of the Australian Hockey League.
Stewart Purser, Jacob's father, said the challenge was a 'tremendous opportunity' for the young Clarence Valley stars.
“It identifies them as some of the best players at state level ... it's a big stepping stone to the state teams,” he said.
“It's a great opportunity for the kids, but it also speaks volumes for the hockey development in Grafton.”
Competing together in local, state and national competitions, this group of players has continually pushed each other to succeed.
“Before the Pacific (School) Games a few of them all trained together ... it was done off their own bat,” Purser said.
“They were doing fitness training, speed training and skills training.”
With the players heading to Lithgow for a training camp before the start of the challenge, Livermore's weekend visit could not have come at a better time.
The former Kookaburra captain ran through a number of skills drills designed to freshen the skills of about 30 out of season players, and should prove a massive advantage to the departing players.
“Brent is a really down to earth guy and he is great with the kids,” Purser said.
“It's funny because with the kids, what Brent says must be true, but if anybody else had said it would be like 'prove it.”
Purser said his son, an all-round sportsman, started playing hockey when he was about seven and now had a 'taste' for state competition.
“He (Jacob) is busting his gut ... he wants a crack at the city kids,” he said.
“Since he went to the Pacific Games he has had a taste for it ... and he can't wait to play.”
In Purser's opinion, Jacob's enthusiasm for the game is indicative of the desire and work ethic of athletes in rural areas.
“I find country kids are a lot tougher than the city kids,” he said.
“City kids get more time and opportunity to play whereas the country kids have to be ready to go straight away.”
“I find country kids are a lot tougher than the city kids ... city kids get more time and opportunity to play”