Gympie returns to State Titles
IT was 15 years ago when Ben Fitzpatrick last played for Gympie at the Open Men’s State Hockey Titles.
He was only 19.
This weekend, Fitzpatrick will once again don on the blue gold of Gympie at the State Championships in Brisbane.
The gold city hasn’t fielded a team in the state men’s competition since 1996.
Shortly after Gympie’s last appearance, men’s hockey folded in town.
Without a competition to play in, many players drove to the Sunshine Coast for a game, while others just packed the sticks away and took up other sports.
Fitzpatrick was one of those players who decided to play at the Coast.
As an ex-under 18 state player, his talent was quickly recognised on the synthetic surface at Buderim and was selected to play for the Sunshine Coast at the State Titles.
From there, his skill was recognised by state selectors and he was picked in Queensland Country sides and an Australian Country side.
Fitzpatrick said he wanted Gympie players to get the same opportunities he did without having to drive to the Coast or Brisbane.
As captain/coach of Gympie, his goal is to get Gympie into the Premier League (Division 1) at the State Titles where players’ talents can be recognised by selectors.
Gympie will return to Division 2 of the competition.
“I would like to get Gympie into the Premier League within four years,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We have some good young talent – we may be able to make it sooner.”
Fitzpatrick has named Mitchell Kuether as Gympie’s vice-captain and hopes the speedy striker can get some early goals in the competition.
“If our strikers can score early and get some confidence, we will go well,” he said.
“We have a young side, only two are over 30 and the rest are under 23.”
He said Gympie’s return to the competition was long overdue and came about after a resurgence in local hockey.
“The Heat has been going well and we now have a men’s competition again,” he said.