20 May, 2024

Locals compete at country championships

The cream of the underage hockey players from across regional Victoria gathered in Melbourne on the weekend to participate in the Junior Country Championships.

By Simon King

Wimmera defence: Ellie Williamson (left), goalie Madisson Bentley, and Lanie Clark (right) playing for Hockey Central Victora Under 14 Girls. PHOTO: RACHEL CLARK
Wimmera defence: Ellie Williamson (left), goalie Madisson Bentley, and Lanie Clark (right) playing for Hockey Central Victora Under 14 Girls. PHOTO: RACHEL CLARK

Twenty teams across eight divisions were entered from the North West Lightning region that includes the Central Victoria (Bendigo), North Central, Sunraysia, Goulburn Valley, and Wimmera hockey associations.

Although none of these wore the blue and gold of the local association, ten Wimmera players did participate, representing five other associations.

Under 14 Boys

The most successful of these was the North Central’s Under 14 Boys team which was undefeated in their five pool matches, winning four and drawing one. The victories came against Geelong (3-0), Central Victoria (5-1), Sunraysia (3-0), and East Gippsland (5-0), and the tied match was against Glenelg (1-1).

Warracknabeal’s Sam Williamson scored two goals in their last pool match, the five-goal win over East Gippsland, and another in the final against Sunraysia, which they won by five goals to win the title.

Under 14 Girls

Ellie Williamson from Warracknabeal played five of Hockey Central Victoria (Bendigo)’s games in the Under 14 Girls’ competition, and after finishing second on the ladder, they narrowly lost their semi-final to Ballarat by one goal and then drew with North Central in the third-place play-off.

Their pool matches included wins over Sunraysia (2-0), East Gippsland (2-0), and Glenelg (3-1) and a loss to Geelong (0-1).

Under 16 Boys

The Goulburn Valley Under 16 Boys team had a distinct Wimmera flavour, with five of the thirteen players in their squad from the Kaniva, Nhill, and Yanac clubs.

Although this team did not have the best tournament, the Yanac pair of Archie Zanker and Asher Zanker scored two and one goals, respectively, in their best result, which was a four-goal defeat of North Central.

This was the team’s only victory from five pool matches, and they also fell two goals short in the fifth-place play-off, which ended in a two-goal loss against the same opponent.

Other Wimmera players on this team included Deegan Clark from Nhill, Charlie White from Kaniva, and Sean Pedie from Yanac.

Results in their pool games included losses to Glenelg (1-3), Ballarat (0-3), East Gippsland (0-4), and Geelong (0-1), and the victory over North Central (4-0).

Under 16 Girls

Two players, Lanie Clark from Nhill and Maddison Bentley from Warracknabeal, represented the Hockey Central Victoria Under 16 Girls.

Maddison played goalkeeper for two of their five matches, including their win over North Central in the cross-over match.

One win over Sunraysia (3-0) and losses to Glenelg (1-3) and East Gippsland (0-1) from their pool matches, followed by a win over North Central (3-1) in their cross-over match, qualified them for the fifth-place play-off, in which they narrowly lost to Ballarat by one goal.

Under 18 Boys

Tom Batchelor from Horsham played for the Sunraysia team in the Under 18 competition, which also did not do well on the scoreboard, losing to Glenelg (0-2), Ballarat (0-4), East
Gippsland (1-2), and Geelong (2-3).

As the tournament progressed, they improved from failing to score in their first two games to getting on the scorecard in their final four matches.

Their weekend finished positively, with their first points coming from a tied final pool match, which they followed with their first win, by two goals to one over North Central in the seventh-place play-off.

Despite only one title for these five teams, all these players will return to the local competition having benefitted from playing alongside and against some of the best players from regional Victoria.

The experience gained will be significant in each player’s development in the sport.


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