Don Birt and Neil McKean
Don Birt and Neil McKean LEEROY TODD

Ash Birt fixture more than just a game

HOCKEY: It is one of the most sacred days on the Gympie sporting calendar.

Today marks an occasion when two teams come together to honour the life of a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Ashley Birt not only wore the colours of the Australian Army, he wore the colours of both Maryborough Brothers and the Cooloola Heat hockey teams.

In 2011, Birt was tragically killed in action while deployed to Afghanistan, and it is for this reason Maryborough Brothers and the Cooloola Heat come together and celebrate a life that was cut short.

Corporal Birt was 22-years-old.

"It is a huge honour to play in this game,” Cooloola Heat coach Neil McKean said.

"It is not about winning or losing it is about taking the field.”

Ashley's father Don Birt echoed coach McKean's sentiment.

"It is a real privilege for us to have him (Ashley) remembered,” Mr Birt said.

Both Maryborough and Gympie are in the midst of a rebuilding phase with the latter scheduled to blood a number of younger players in today's game.

The Heat have lost attacking superstar Nathan Stephens as well as a host of regular senior players.

"We had a trial last weekend in Hervey Bay which had a lot more positives than negatives,” McKean said.

"It is exciting to see some of these kids grow into better players.

"Training numbers have been exceptional.”

McKean will look to Darren Browne to stabalise defence while young gun Tim Collins will be the go to player in the middle.

Play starts at 2.30pm today at the Gympie Hockey Centre.

Gympie Times


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