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Hockey stars urged to back men’s country championships tilt

Player-coach John Bates has urged the region’s best players to back the Eastern Goldfields Hockey Association’s division 1 tilt at the annual men’s country championships in Perth.

Bates made the call after dates for the three-day series were switched from the traditional June long weekend to June 24-26.

The EGHA’s ability to field its strongest team, Bates said, was challenged because day one of the carnival would be played on a Friday.

But he was confident support would be high when squad training got under way on April 25.

The association will also be represented by division 2 and masters teams.

“It’s a lot harder, considering we’re a working town,” Bates said.

“A lot of the guys have used that long weekend in the past because it meant only having to take the one day off work to travel down.

“It’s now a bigger commitment and it’s probably the regions closer to Perth who’ll benefit.

“It leaves the associations like us, Esperance and Karratha with the challenge of trying to send as many players as we can to fill three squads.

“I would say it will have some effect, but I have let the guys know early so we can start planning.

“Most of the guys from last year have expressed an intention to come away again, but I do know of a few in the squad who’ll be affected.”

Alongside Bates, Chris Souchon has also been named as division 1 player-coach.

Nick Lavery, however, will miss the series.

“Nick’s a huge out for us (because) his skill level is still among the best in the competition, but also for the experience he brings and an ability to help the younger players coming through,” Bates said.

“He’s going to be sorely missed.

“But having Chris on the trip means we’ll be able to look after each of the lines — I’ll be on the defensive end and he’ll be on the attacking side and with the likes of Daniel Lavery also helping out on game day.”

EGHA got off to a great start at last year’s carnival, but were bundled out in the semifinals.

“That (2021) was our best (showing) for six or seven years and we ended up top of the ladder after the pool games,” Bates said.

“We did really well, but fell short in the semifinal against Albany, who had a red-hot player.

“For this trip, we’re targeting the best players, but it’s open for everyone.

“It’s very much a case of turn up for training, put in the hard yards and make a claim for selection.

“We want to win it, so we’re going to take the best squad we possibly can.”

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