TAMWORTH’S young hockey stars are scattered west, east and south today on the national title trail.
The U13 boys and girls and U15 boys and girls’ national championships are all being run concurrently and all will involve Tamworth players.
Abigail Doolan, Emily Chaffey and Gabbi D’Ambros are the furthest away.
They’re in Perth with the U13 girls.
Ehren Hazell and Brady Curry are down in Nowra with the U13 boys, Brittany King and Alice Arnott in Canberra with the U15 girls and Isaac Farmilo, Antony Doolan and Andrew Finch in Adelaide with the U15 boys.
Jemery Blakely, Matt Johnston, Isaac Woodley and New England’s Darby Chalmers and Tahlia Constance are also over at Ballina to participate in the Development Tour, where they’ll be training and playing games against the Queensland Development teams.
All of them have been training hard in the elite sessions with Richard Willis and Greg Doolan since their selection, and impressed former Kookaburra Matt Wells when he did some work with them a few weeks ago.
“He couldn’t get over the competitiveness and quality we had in the group,” Willis said.
He coached Chaffey, D’Ambros and Doolan in the Tamworth U13s.
“It’s really exciting for them to be going to the centre of the hockey universe,” he said, with the national base being in Perth.
Doolan was a member of the 13s side that won the silver medal last year and will play up front.
D’Ambros and Chaffey are both making their field debuts for NSW.
“I’m very excited,” Chaffey said.
It’s the first time she’s been to Perth and the realisation of a goal.
“I’ve made Country the last two years,” she said.
“I really wanted to get into the state team.”
“I got into the squad last year. I was really excited to make it.”
She’ll play in the midfield and D’Ambros in a sweeper role at the back.
They’ve had a few sessions down in Sydney since the squad was finalised and Chaffey said they’ve come together pretty well.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good team, fairly strong,” she said.
Queensland is the defending champion and will present a tough first-up challenge for the Blues.
The 13 boys finished third last year and will be looking to improve on that.
They also have a Tamworth connection in the dugout with former Tamworth player Matthew Hobbs their coach.
Hazell and Curry were both in the side last year and will play prominent roles – Hazell in an attacking midfielder role and Curry up front.
They also start their campaign against Queensland.
Both 15s sides were gold medallists last year.
The boys have won the last six and are considered a good chance of claiming the title again.
They also have Tamworth coaching support, with Services Workies coach Simon Massey assistant coach of the side.
Farmilo and Doolan are chasing a hat-trick of national titles in the one year after being part of the winning NSW indoor and more recently All Schools sides.
Down in Canberra, the girls are also looking to go back to back.
They have a few new faces, with Arnott and King two of them.
Arnott is stepping up from the 13s last year.
“It was really fun, a good experience,” she said.
She’s one of four or five out of last year’s 13s and heads in in good form after starring for Olympians in their run to the Tamworth grand final.
After missing the minor semi-final due to state training she was outstanding in both the final and decider.
She’ll play up front and King in the midfield and said the side had combined well.
They meet Tasmania first and expect Queensland to be their toughest opponents.
“They are usually pretty tough,” Arnott said.
She knows that first-hand, with Queensland the side that beat them for gold last year.