Final approaches, association recognises local stars

Thirteen members of the Esperance Hockey Association have been selected to represent WA at national competitions across Australia this year, the largest group ever to do so.

Veteran player and coach Gail Anderson, who has played at a national level for more than two decades, said she was thrilled to see so many local players putting Esperance on the map.

Nine of the players will attend the Australian Masters competition after being selected at both Country Week and trials held in Perth earlier this year.

Those players include Anderson herself, as well as Justine McDonald, Natasha Woodhouse, Phil Charmer, Julian Gardner, J.P Adams, Nigel Worth, Ian O'Dea and Stewart McKenzie.

The four players selected for the Country team, Kate Morley, Jacqui Tonkin, Alli McArthur and Rachel Hoey, competed in Shepparton early last month.

For the second consecutive year now, McArthur has also made the Under 21 Australian Country Team.

Knowing the hard work and commitment involved in playing the sport at such a level, Anderson commended the players.

"Honestly, it's just mind-blowing and it's so good to see," she said.

"It's a big commitment, you have to train and travel for trials and that sort of thing.

"I'm not sure what the size of team this year boils down to.

"I know I've really tried to encourage them all to get involved and sometimes that what you need.

"It's so important to stress to the younger players that this sort of thing is possible in Esperance.

"The talent squad, coordinated by Rachel Hoey, is really great.

"The aim of that is to prepare our younger players for going from grass to turf when we play away.

"It's great to see the Hockey Association still so strong. It really is a lifelong, all-inclusive family sport."

With less than a week to go until the competition, Anderson encouraged each of the players to give it their all and enjoy it.

"Your best friends are your hockey friends," she said.

"After several years of going away, you're like a big family.

"It's also a great way to travel and to see Australia and meet new friends. For me, it gives you a goal to keep fit and improve your skills, regardless of how old you are."

The competition comes off the back of an impressive semi-final.

Furies took on Emus in what was a tough game, with the half time score still being nil all.

Late in the second half, Furies proved to be the more dominant side - with Tessa Hunt, Ruby Hodges and Jacqui Tonkin all scoring goals.

The best players on the field were Jacqui Tonkin from Furies and Alli McArthur from Emus.

It was another close game when Castletown and Rams went head to head.

In the end, Castletown came out on top after Matt Walker helped the team secure a 1 nil win over Rams.

The best Castletown player went to Dave Sanders, while Marcus Moffatt was named best on the field for Rams.

The Grand Final will be held this Saturday, September 21, with Condingup vs Furies at 1pm and Sharks vs Castletown from 3pm. For details, visit www.facebook.com/esperance.hockey/