SUPER SEVEN: Grafton juniors dominate NSW hockey sides
HOCKEY: Grafton's representation at junior state level is as strong as ever with no less than seven of its rising stars selected for NSW under-15 sides.
Four boys and three girls were this week named in teams to contest the Under-15 Australian Hockey Championships to be held contested at the Illawarra Hockey Stadium, Wollongong, from April 18 to 27.
The teams were selected following an intensive three-day camp at Narellan Hockey Centre as part of the Hockey NSW Centre of Development for under-15s and under-13s.
The high representation is yet another reflection of Grafton's elite training program led by the city's Hockey NSW regional coaching co-ordinator Rick Sampson.
"It's very exciting," Sampson said.
"We're producing some pretty good players at present and to have seven in the squads would be up there with the highest in recent years.
"They're a great bunch of kids who are working hard. It's a bit unfortunate that a couple of others didn't make it. But for those who did, it is well deserved."
Rhys Cropper, Tyler Gaddes and Riley Power have reunited with selection in the NSW State Boys after the dynamic trio the dynamic trio won a silver medal with the NSW State Under-13s in Perth two years ago. All three were also part of the history-making Grafton side to win the Division One title at the Under-13 Boys State Championships in 2016.
Meanwhile Harry Watts, who was also in the victorious Grafton side two years ago, was selected for NSW Blues in his first year since graduating from Under-13s.
In the girls Ashleigh Ensbey, who is no stranger to national level competition, was named in the NSW State side.
Hayley Fischer, who commutes from Coffs Harbour to fulfil her hockey commitments in Grafton, will be joined in the NSW Blues by Josie Green, who returned faith to COD coaches who granted her a second chance after she was initially overlooked for the trials.
"Josie was a late call up to attend the trials and did really well," Sampson said.
"The RCCs can identify and provide feedback on players and she was recommended to go to the last trial."
Hockey NSW has run the COD program for Under-13 and Under-15 players for the past three years. It incorporates squad members completing 21 hours of high-level training in their home regions under supervision of a Hockey NSW RCC.
The Grafton contingent has been coached by Sampson for two hours every Monday afternoon, as well as two three-hour joint sessions with the Far North Coast players.
Sampson attended the COD last weekend as a selector for the boys squads. He will also be assistant coach of the NSW Blues Boys at the national tournament.
"The 15s and 13s were all at Narellan, playing 8-a-side 20-minute cross-field games for three days," Sampson said.