ON FIRE: Dominic Stephens and Ben Fitzpatrick have teamed up to lead confident Cooloola Heat squads this season.
ON FIRE: Dominic Stephens and Ben Fitzpatrick have teamed up to lead confident Cooloola Heat squads this season. Troy Jegers

Gympie Hockey heating up as respected coaches return

HOCKEY: Strength in numbers on both sides have returning Cooloola Heat coaching pair Dominic Stephens and Ben Fitzpatrick excited to see Gympie Hockey blazing the trail in season 2019.

Stephens, who returns to take the Heat men's coaching mantle after two years off, will also continue in his on-field role as a defender.

Facing a season-opening clash with Caloundra at Buderim tomorrow, Stephens said early wins would help his young but confident side build momentum.

Nathan Stephens will serve as the Heat men's captain.
Nathan Stephens will serve as the Heat men's captain. Leeroy Todd

"We have a fair bit of youth in the squad this year, a few younger guys have come in,” Stephens said.

"We've spent the pre-season working hard on fitness and game plan, we're confident in the guys we've got that we can get strong results this year.

"If we can jag a few wins early on in the season and get that extra bit of confidence and momentum it will work wonders for us.”

Resuming in the role he previously worked in for three years, Stephens said he felt refreshed and revitalised for the season ahead.

In a team which never felt too far off the pace despite struggling for wins last year, Stephens anticipated a similarly tight competition in 2019.

"I think from the whispers I've heard it's going to be very even, you don't really know where you stand until you get a couple of games in.

"This is a completely different squad to what I've coached in the past; it took me a bit of time to get used to it again but now I feel ready.”

Stephens said his leadership group, including captain Nathan Stephens, Harrison Parker and Matthew Browne, would be key to the Heat's success.

Coming off a 4-0 season opening win in his return to the women's coaching fold, Fitzpatrick said he was "excited” for the opportunity to connect with a team again.

"I took on the role with Gympie Hockey as coaching director and development officer, which I coach every day, but I missed that week-to-week, game-style coaching,” Fitzpatrick said.

"It probably is more hands on than helping with everything, there's more actual game stuff.”

"The response has been good. We've got a squad of about 20 for a team of 15 on game day.”

Fitzpatrick said the Heat would face a much tougher contest in their second game against Flinders tonight at 6pm.

Both coaches encouraged more numbers at training sessions, despite the "selection headaches” they would cause.

COOLOOLA HEAT MEN - Round 1 vs Caloundra, tomorrow

Players to watch: Harrison Parker, Nathan Stephens, Matthew Browne, Riley Bambling

COOLOOLA HEAT WOMEN - Round 2 vs Flinders, tonight 6pm

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