8 July, 2024

Wimmera players at Junior State Championships

The Junior State Championships is the pinnacle tournament for underage hockey players in Victoria, and several Wimmera players had the opportunity to experience their sport at the next level.

By Simon King

Wimmera Participants - (from left) Hunter Knoop, Jack Di Pietro, Hannah Mackereth, Holly Di Pietro, Olivia Knoop, Barrett Clark, James Mackereth, Paul Mackereth (Coach); Riley Knoop in front. PHOTO: Rachel Clark
Wimmera Participants - (from left) Hunter Knoop, Jack Di Pietro, Hannah Mackereth, Holly Di Pietro, Olivia Knoop, Barrett Clark, James Mackereth, Paul Mackereth (Coach); Riley Knoop in front. PHOTO: Rachel Clark

These Championships involve teams from nine zones across country and metropolitan Victoria taking part in Under 12, Under 14, and Under 16 divisions for both girls and boys, with a separate tournament to be held in September for the Under 18 age group.

Across the five days of competition, three Wimmera players represented the North West Lightning, this zone in which the Wimmera Hockey Association is located, several others played for the neighbouring South West Eagles’ zone, and Horsham’s Paul Mackereth participated as a coach of the North West Lightning Black team in the Boys’ Under 12 Division.

Participating in these tournaments is quite an achievement, as not only does a player have to be selected in the squad, but there is also a significant commitment to travel to Bendigo or Warrnambool to attend the weekly training sessions in the lead-up.

The Under 12 games were played on Wednesday and Thursday at Shepparton, using the new Hockey5s rules. This format is played with fewer players and on a smaller pitch than a standard match. It utilises rebound boards around the playing area, which keep the ball in play and make for faster play.

The Lightning Black team won one of their six pool matches but finished positively with a win in the 11th Place Play-Off over the Eagles Maroon team. In this match, James Mackereth (Horsham) scored three of his five goals for the tournament, and Barrett Clark (Nhill) scored one for the Lightning, while Reily Knoop (Horsham) opposed them as goalkeeper for the Eagles.

Horsham’s Holly Di Pietro played for the South West Eagles Under 12 Girls team and personally had a good tournament, scoring three goals from five matches, but the team did not enjoy much success, winning only one of their six pool matches.

The Under 14 and 16 divisions were then contested from Friday to Sunday, with the boys playing at Bendigo and the girls at Shepparton and were played as full-field games to the standard rules of hockey.

The nine zone teams in each division were initially divided into two pools, and after playing each opponent in their pool, the top two from each progress to Pool C, from which the winner is decided, and the remaining teams play off in Pool D for positions five and lower.

Two Horsham players participated in the Under 16 competition, with Hannah Mackereth playing for the Lightning girls’ team and Jack Di Pietro in the South West Eagles boys' team.

After a slow start, Hannah’s team finished on a high, winning the seventh place play-off, while Jack’s team did not enjoy a productive tournament, missing the play-off to finish ninth.

Two Horsham players represented the Eagles in the Under 14 competition. Olivia Knoop’s team finished eighth in the girls’ division, while Hunter Knoop’s team had a more successful tournament, finishing third.

Two early wins saw this team progress to Pool C, where they only drew one of three games, but it was enough to qualify for the third-place play-off, where they scored a three-goal victory over the Central Flames to bring home the bronze medal.

Although not all Wimmera participants came home with a medal, they will all return with the invaluable experience of playing alongside and against the cream of their peers from across the state and the experience of training and playing under a different coach, which will improve their individual games and raise the standard of the local competition.

Two more Wimmera players have been selected to play in the Under 18 Championships, which will be held in late September.


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