Under 15 Parkes players return home from Australian Hockey Championships

EMERGING TALENT: Meg Searl with her Australian gold medal, Nick Job, Koby Johnstone and Jack Westcott. Photo: Christine Little
EMERGING TALENT: Meg Searl with her Australian gold medal, Nick Job, Koby Johnstone and Jack Westcott. Photo: Christine Little

Does Parkes possess the next Stephen Davies or Mariah Williams?

It’s not a far-fetching question, considering the town already has some of the best junior hockey talent in the country.

Four athletes have returned home from the 2018 Under 15s Australian Championships – one of them with a new national title.

The tournament was held in Wollongong, between April 18-27, where 13-year-old Meg Searl and 15-year-old Koby Johnstone represented the NSW State team and 14-year-old Nick Job the NSW Blues.

Parkes’ Jack Westcott (14) was also selected for the NSW squad and placed on the pick-up list where the Northern Territory took him as their goal keeper.

Searl made her debut as a national representative in the sport last year when the titles were held in Perth.

But this year instead of returning with a fourth position, the teen is now an Australian champion and has the gold medallion to prove it.

The girls NSW State team won all of their round games which took them to the top of their pool and into the finals.

They faced Western Australia in the semi final in what Searl described as a close game.

“It was a tight game with a couple of strokes but we came away with a 3-2 win,” the mid fielder said. 

“That put us into the grand final against Victoria and it was a nail-biting game.

“We were winning 1-0 then they scored in the last seven seconds. It then went straight into one-on-ones.”

Both teams were on equal points after the first round but NSW came away with the gold.

“It was a surprise...Victoria was our hardest team to face,” Searl said.

“Being in the NSW team has been an amazing opportunity and I loved every bit of it.

“Thanks to everyone for all their support throughout this tournament.”

The NSW State boys team wasn’t too far behind the girls in their performance at the titles, with Johnstone claiming a bronze.

In his third national championships, the mid fielder had the honour of leading his team for 2018 for the first time as captain.

The State team won all of their round games but went down to Western Australia in the semi-final.

“It was a challenge being captain and having to give half-time speeches,” Johnstone said.

“Our other challenge was the semi-final match, it was a game we had to win so there was some pressure there.

“We were down straight away and we ended up losing 1-0, I was disappointed and it was frustrating.”

Job and his NSW Blues placed seventh at the titles after losing all of their round games.

The side went into the classification rounds which saw them win their last two matches.

“It was hard versing other good players,” Job said, who last represented NSW in 2016.

“Queensland were the hardest team to beat because they were the best.”

But a highlight for the mid fielder was beating Northern Territory in the classification round.

Why? Because his Parkes teammate, Westcott, was on the team.

There’s nothing like friendly rivalry and it wasn’t the first time Westcott had faced familiar faces on opposing teams.

When he was selected to play at nationals for the first time in 2016, Westcott played for ACT.

His third year playing at Australian level, he said the experience wasn’t too different.

“It was a good contest [this year] and it was pretty challenging,” Westcott said.

“The competition was strong and there was a good bunch of kids to play against, they were very fair.”

The NT team, who placed 10th, had two draws and three losses, but Westcott’s fitness and skill as the side’s only goal keeper was tested most when he was required to play the full 70 minutes for every game.