By Will Braid
Phwoar! What a weekend!
The Hockey Tasmania annual June Long Weekend (JLW) junior tournament was held at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend with players, coaches and managers from all parts of the state striving for regional supremacy.
There were experienced players who have done a lap of the JLW before, coaches looking to make a mark, those who have been in the game a bit and emerging players and coaches participating in the under 13, 15 and 18 boys and girls tournaments.
I love tournament hockey.
It’s a chance for people to play with players they would not normally play with or against, coaches as well as players to test themselves and umpires to experience a tournament, all in potential preparation for higher honours.
What I saw at the JLW was a great example of a community coming together for junior sport.
There were, of course, other examples like the basketball in Launceston and soccer in Devonport over the weekend, but being as biased as possible, the hockey was brilliant.
From a players point of view, these games were hotly contested in all six divisions with the NW Coast claiming two titles and the South bagging four shields.
But it wasn’t about the trophies on offer. This tournament, as mentioned, can often be a precursor to higher duties for players, coaches and officials.
For the players, names can be made at the JLW. A goal, a dominant performance, a game changing piece of play all gets remembered by those who were there, potentially including selectors and coaches of state teams.
For coaches, this is a vital step toward moving toward state duties. But for some it was a chance to plant their stamp on another team. All clearly took their role looking after young people seriously but enabled the players to have as much fun as possible with an eye to winning.
People who have read my stuff before know I have a soft spot for officials and the JLW was a great chance for some to receive vital feedback from experienced officials.
Officials like Olympic umpire Minka Woolley were on hand to offer young umpires suggestions and CONSTRUCTIVE feedback.
The nuts and bolts of this yarn is that junior rep sport, particularly hockey, is alive and well in Tasmania.
The competition was well run at an amazing facility with volunteers doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.
Tournaments like this in any sport are fundamental to the senior success of Tasmanian teams, like the Tigers, as we strive to find the next Eddie O.
Oh, for the record, the team I was lucky enough to coach, the North West Under 13 girls, finished a credible third. The beauty of tournament hockey is you can come back from early losses and still be competitive. The team we defeated 2-0 in the bronze medal match we lost 2-1 to earlier in the weekend.
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