OXLEY High’s boys are confident of success in their state finals series in Newcastle, as long as they can get past their “nemesis”, Grafton High, in the quarter-final today.
The same sides met last year and it ended in heartbreak for Oxley so this time the Tamworth boys are out to reverse that result and progress to this afternoon’s semi- finals.
“Grafton, our nemesis,” coach Richard Willis said yesterday.
“We played them last year in the quarters and it went to extra time.
“We had a couple of good chances to score but couldn’t put it away.
“Then they went on a run down the other end and scored.
“They haven’t lost many players from last year and neither have we so I expect it will be close again.”
Willis said his side has to put the ball into the back of the goal at every opportunity to avoid disappointment.
Fortunately the side is in good form.
“Our guys have been playing at a high level,” Willis said.
“Most of them played in the first grade final last weekend and they’re all performing.
“It’s up to them now to take their opportunities.
“I couldn’t fault their effort but it really comes down to who stops the goals and who scores them, and we need to score them.
“That’s the key.
“Whoever wins this one should do well because we were both in the quarter-finals last year and none of the others were.”
The most experienced and highly credentialled individuals are in the Oxley side and they will carry a lot of the responsibility.
Australian junior rep Sam Liles is one but not the only key player.
“We look to Sam Liles obviously,” Willis said.
“He’s our centre man.
“We also look to Beetle (Alex) McKenzie and Reid Gould, who have been playing well in Tamworth hockey.
“Workies are in the grand final so a lot of these boys have a big week.
“We also beat Lambton at home in the last game and they also won their local knockout final last Wednesday night so they’ve had plenty of opportunities to play together.”
The boys are trying to win the state title for their three graduating players but also for their long-term coach, who is finishing up.
“The Year 12s – Lachlan Willis, Harry Moore and Luke Fox – have been in the team since Year Seven and this is their last trip away,” Willis said.
“It’s also my last year because Lachlan is in Year 12 and I’ve been coaching since Matt Willis was in Year Seven, so it’s been a long stint.
“They’re just great young men.
“They’re fine ambassadors for the school and for Tamworth hockey.”
The quarter-final is at 10.20am with the semis to follow this afternoon.
The final is tomorrow morning and Oxley hopes to be there.