North Coast hockey juniors prepare for national stage
Grafton’s rich tradition of punching above its weight in the representative hockey arena will continue in 2021 with a contingent of players preparing to compete at national championship events.
Talented sisters Ashleigh (17) and Mackenna Ensbey (15) have both earned NSW selection. While the pair are no strangers to the state setup, they will for the first time compete in the same age group, but on opposing teams after Ashleigh was selected for the NSW State side and Mackenna in the NSW Blues to compete at the Under-18 Girls Australian Championships at Launceston from April 8 to 16.
Both have previously represented NSW at Under-13 level, and Ashleigh won a national title in 2018 with the Under-15 side. However, Mackenna missed her opportunity at Under-15 level after all representative hockey was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
She was supposed to compete at Bathurst for the Under-15s, while Ashleigh missed out on a trip to Launceston. Instead, the hosting rights carrying over for both venues in 2021, with Mackenna now among the youngest players in the Under-18 age group.
The pair will travel to Newcastle next weekend for the first of three training sessions with the NSW squad ahead of the tournament.
In the meantime, they train under the watchful eye of Grafton-based high performance coach Rick Sampson.
Fellow North Coast players Maddison Drewitt (Port Macquarie Hastings) and Breah Fischer (Coffs Coast) and Maya McGrath (Far North Coast) will also represent NSW State at Under-18 level while Hayley Fischer (Coffs Coast) is the only other North Coast based player in the Blues team.
Meanwhile Rhys Cropper (17) and Tyler Gaddes, who has recently moved to Brisbane, will play for NSW State in the Under-18 Boys also at Launceston.
Both players also have considerable experience at this level, with a silver medal to fierce rivals Queensland in Under-15s their best result with the NSW team.
Cropper and Gaddes are the only North Coast players in the NSW State team, while Billy Bradford (Far North Coast), Ambrose Page (Coffs Coast) and Bayden Smith (Port Macquarie Hastings) are all in the NSW Blues team.
Martina Williams was the only Under-15 player selected from Grafton, in the NSW State Girls team to play at Bathurst from April 9 to 15. In the same team will be Hollie Matthews (Far North Coast), while Emersyn Smith (Port Macquarie Hastings) and Lillianah Williams (Port Macquarie Hastings) will represent NSW Blues.
Reece Gaddes and Jake Lambeth along with former Grafton product Zac Young are in the squad currently trialling for the NSW Under-21 Mens team while Grace Young, who now plays for Sydney East, is in the women’s squad.
The Under-13 teams are yet to be named.