Grafton juniors stand tall for mate at State titles
HOCKEY: Pride, passion and persistence.
They are merely three words that go nowhere near describing the true might of the effort of Grafton Hockey Association's Under-15 boys representative side.
Down on players, and thrown an emotionally-draining curve ball on the eve of the tournament, the Grafton side stood tall to finish fourth in the State at the Hockey NSW Under-15 state titles in Parkes.
All through the three days of the tournament the Grafton side had one thing on their mind: Ben Baker-Whalley.
Baker-Whalley was meant to be in the side before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and rushed to hospital to begin his treatment.
His fighting spirit became the driving force behind the Grafton side dubbed "Team Ben”, as they aimed to take out a State title for their mate.
"It was very hard for them, a lot of the guys didn't say anything when we told them,” coach Rick Fischer said.
"It was a tough ask of these young blokes, but they really stepped up to the mark.”
The side was also dealt another blow before the tournament with star midfield Tyler Gaddes ruled out with a broken collarbone.
But again they fought through the adversity to stand tall at the championships.
With more than four players stepping up from the Grafton Under-13 ranks, Fischer said he was proud to see the maturity they showed on the field.
The side managed to finish second in their pool, and made it to the semi-finals but were beaten 2-0 by Illawarra, in what was their "best match”.