By TANIA PHILLIPS
TWEED-BORDER hockey's women's representative side has been dealt a major blow on the eve of their step up to the prestigious Queensland women's Premier League hockey competition with the withdrawal of fullback Jaymi Ashburn earlier this week. The promising 15-year-old has been forced out by a re-occuring hand injury and her withdrawal is the only blot on what is shaping as an exciting weekend in the top-flight competition on the Gold Coast for the Tweed Heat side. The team won the Queensland Open Hockey title last year to earn the right to take their place in the Premier League - against the eight top teams from throughout the state - including many state and Australian representatives. The competition is just one step down from the National League of which Queensland were finalists this season. "It is a huge step up," former Australian player and Heat coach Sharon Buchanan said of her team's Premier League debut. "But they have been training hard and they are excited and ready to go - and so am I. "However we are just going to take it one step at a time and give it our best shot." She said the withdrawal of fullback Ashburn had left the side with just 14 fit players for the three-day event which starts at Labrador on Saturday morning. "We have a good core group of players but we are a bit light on on the fringes," Buchanan admitted. "We do have plenty of versatile players who will be able to fill in through the back-line though." Border have drawn a strong pool in the two-pool preliminary round including Brisbane No1, Cairns and the very strong Ipswich. "To be honest at the moment we are just focussing on the opening game against Ipswich (8.15am on Saturday morning)," she said. "We will take it from there." Border will face champion team Brisbane at 2.15pm and then the Cairns side at 9.45pm before moving into semi finals in the afternoon and finals on Monday. Meanwhile the Tweed Border men's team will compete in the open titles in Brisbane over the weekend. The men, who have been finalists in the second tier competition over the past few years, will look to win and possibly join their women in the top-line competition. The side will be coached by Waratahs mentor and star midfielder Tim Willis.