STREAK: Bathurst members from the Western Districts Masters 63s team going for their fourth straight title in March, from left, Rick McDonald (manager), Ian Clews, Dennis Harvey, Dave Weal, Peter Dodds and John Willott. Photo: PHILL MURRAY 010815pvetsHOCKEY
BATHURST is not only looking forward to playing host to the Men’s 55s and 63s NSW Masters Hockey Championship in March, but are hopeful of maintaining their dominant position in the age groups.
Players from around the Central West band together each year to form the Western Districts side, one that in the 63s division is aiming for its fourth straight state title.
The competition runs from March 20-22 and the host city’s players begin their training this Thursday as they get ready to defend that streak.
Not only does the competition fall in Bathurst’s bicentenary year but it also marks 30 years since Bathurst claimed its first ever Veterans, now Masters, title.
“The 63s have won it for the last three years … The 55 ones played in the final in 2013 as well,” team manager Rick McDonald said.
“These two age groups are always very competitive across the park. If you took out the Masters players from the Bathurst association there wouldn’t be as many teams running around because those players make up a lot of the sides. They’re there to help the juniors come along.”
Last year the over 55s one side made it, against the odds, to the semi-final stage where their run was eventually brought to an end at the hands of Newcastle.
That effort was made all the more impressive given the team only 11 operated with players.
The team is hopeful of equalling that strong effort in 2015 thanks to some players moving up into their ranks from last year’s 50s side.
The second division over 55s team enjoyed a good result as they too claimed a semi-final finish in 2014. Once again the numbers will allow Western Districts to field two sides in that age group.
McDonald said having three fields at Bathurst continues to make it a prime candidate for hosting Masters events.
“The reason they liked Bathurst to have it is that we have three turfs. Having three turfs means you can spread the games out a bit more,” he said.
“The last couple of years it’s been up at Grafton and with two turfs they have a very tight time frame.”
Team member of the 63s, Dennis Harvey, said people shouldn’t underestimate how exciting and quick the senior-most Masters age group can be.
“It’s amazing how competitive it can be at that age. You would think that it would drop off, but it doesn’t,” he said.
“We play a Western Districts side in this competition mainly because we don’t get enough players from Bathurst.
“Parkes and Lithgow don’t quite have enough either, so we join forces to make a team. We get some very talented plays come on board.”
The titles will run from March 20-22.
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