Last lines of state de­fence stick­ing up for their city

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - LIAM BUT­TER­WORTH

QUEENS­LAND’S last line of de­fence will have a dis­tinct Townsville feel to it.

Goal­keep­ers Mitchell Ni­chol­son and Han­nah Ast­bury will be be­tween the sticks for the Queens­land un­der- 21 teams at this month’s Aus­tralian Hockey Cham­pi­onships.

Aged 17 and 16 re­spec­tively, they form part of a younger guard of Queens­land teams aim­ing to be com­peti- tive at na­tional level. Ast­bury was part of the un­der- 21 team that won sil­ver last year and is hop­ing Queens­land, which also fea­tures Townsville prod­ucts Re­becca Church and Stephanie Ker­shaw, can go one bet­ter.

It’s more ex­pe­ri­ence for her, hav­ing re­cently re­turned from an Aus­tralian schools tour of Europe, where she was ex­posed to dif­fer­ent styles of hockey play­ing against Bel­gium, Ger­many and the Nether­lands.

“It was just in­cred­i­ble and it was a dif­fer­ent level of hockey,” Ast­bury said.

“Play­ing against dif­fer­ent coun­tries who have a dif­fer­ent style, it’s re­ally good.

“The Euro­peans play a com­pletely dif­fer­ent style to the Aussies, es­pe­cially the Nether­lands and Ger­many.”

Ast­bury will be away even longer af­ter the Ho­bart tour­na­ment and heads into an Aus­tralian un­der- 21 squad camp.

For Ni­chol­son, it’s his first time in the un­der- 21s pro­gram but comes af­ter he played for the state un­der- 18 team ear­lier this year.

The Broth­ers goal­keeper was ex­pect­ing a big jump in level and went into the team keen to gain as much as he could as he plays in Can­berra.

“I’m just learn­ing and I go away with an open mind and see what other keep­ers are do­ing so I can de­velop my game and be­come bet­ter,” he said.

“Then you just learn off other peo­ple and see what works for them. It’s a hell of a lot faster and un­der- 18s was even a big step up.

“It’s faster than the Agrade com­pe­ti­tion here and ap­par­ently un­der- 21s is the fastest hockey you’ll come across.

“It’s re­ally good to be in it.”

Ni­chol­son and Ast­bury went into camp in Bris­bane yesterday ahead of the na­tional cham­pi­onships be­tween July 12 and 19.

Pic­ture: ZAK SIM­MONDS

SU­PER SAVE: Queens­land un­der- 21 goal­keep­ers Mitchell Ni­chol­son and Han­nah Ast­bury are off to the na­tional cham­pi­onships.

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