Wests to threaten Albion Park, Uni: Burns

HOCKEY

Wests veteran Paul Burns hopes that, in 2014, his side can finally crack Albion Park and University’s domination of the Illawarra men’s first grade competition.

The two sides have been the clear benchmark in the strong regional competition in recent times, both bundling out Wests regularly enroute to the grand final. 

Last year, Park knocked out Burns’s Wests side in the preliminary final before ending the Students’ five-year reign atop the competition with a thrilling 7-6 extra-time victory.

In 2014, Wests are targeting an underdog story of their own. ‘‘We will be working hard throughout the year to put ourselves in a position to challenge University and Albion Park,’’ Burns said. 

‘‘Obviously those two sides are the benchmark for hockey in the Illawarra and have been for a long, long time now. 

‘‘Our aim is to challenge those guys at the end of the year. 

‘‘It will be a long process but that is the goal: to be challenging and move forward to a grand final.’’

In the off-season, Wests appointed long-time first-grader Scott Matthews as coach.

As a regular teammate of the new gaffer, Burns is confident he is the right man to lead the club. 

‘‘He will bring a lot of experience to the team and a lot of passion to the club as well,’’ Burns said.

‘‘His father is one of the life members to the club, so obviously there is a long tradition there.’’

Wests lost the always impressive Cody Tribe overseas and will rely on a solid crop of youth talent to lead them to glory in 2014.

‘‘We have got a number of kids in that 16s, 17s and 18s age bracket now who are really starting to strengthen up and really start challenging some of the older guys for positions in first grade,’’ Burns said.

‘‘I think that competition is only a strong thing and a positive thing for a club when you have got juniors working really hard to play first grade.’’

The Premier League competition was dealt a massive blow, with Fairy Meadow leaving the top grade after they were unable to field a squad.

After joining the competition in 1979, Fairy Meadow experienced great success throughout the 1980s.

In representative hockey, the first of the Masters State Championships starts this weekend in Grafton. Illawarra have two teams, in  the A and B divisions. 

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