Sport

Honouring hero Birt

BIG GAME: Cooloola Heat player-coach Dom Stephens is looking forward to the third annual Ashley Birt Memorial hockey match.
BIG GAME: Cooloola Heat player-coach Dom Stephens is looking forward to the third annual Ashley Birt Memorial hockey match. Greg Miller

THE legacy of a fallen Gympie soldier will be honoured at Ramsay Park on Saturday, with the Cooloola Heat taking on Maryborough Brothers in the third annual Ashley Birt Memorial hockey match.

Birt was deployed on missions to the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan, and flood assistance operations in Australia during his time in the Australian Army.

He was described as a highly skilled, dedicated and well-liked soldier. He was promoted to corporal in April 2011.

His life was tragically cut short six months later when he and two comrades were shot dead by a rogue soldier in Afghanistan.

"Ash played hockey for both the Heat and Brothers, and the memorial match is one of the biggest games of the year," Heat player-coach Dom Stephens said.

"Even with the Sunshine Coast and Maryborough competitions finished for the year, this is a special game to be a part of.

"As we moved from the Maryborough competition to the Sunshine Coast this year it was hard during the regular season to organise a match, so we've arranged with Brothers to play this weekend."

Of the Heat's 20-man squad, 19 of the players have offered themselves for selection the match.

"It just goes to show how important this is for the players," Stephens said.

"Brothers have had a tough year in the Maryborough competition, but we're expecting them to put a quality team together.

"We've had some great battles over the last 10 years and Saturday should be no different.

"Last year they gave us a touch-up in this match, so we'll be looking to even the score with a full-strength team and attacking the game like it's a grand final.

"It's an honour and a privilege to play for our mate, and it would be great to see Ramsay Park packed for this special event."

The match starts at 4.30pm after an official ceremony at 4pm.

Heat Team

 Patrick Barnes

 Dom Stephens

 Joey Collins

 Dave Dixon

 Kalum Warhurst

 John Daly

 Codey Warhurst

 Nathan Stephens

 Dean Walker

 Mitch Kuether

 Jack McKean

 Neil McKean

 Ben Fitzpatrick

 Mitch Robertson

 Lachlan Robertson

 Matty Hurrell

Topics:  gympie hockey sport

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