|Three young Wimmera hockey players enjoyed the experience of playing alongside and against the best underage hockey players in Victoria when they participated in the Junior State Championships in Melbourne last week.
Warracknabeal’s Sandon Schultz and Luke Shalders from Kaniva represented the North West Lightning in the Under 17 and Under 15 age groups respectively, and Mikayla Farmers from Yanac played for the South West Eagles Under 17 girls team.
The Lightning zone encompasses the north western quarter of Victoria and includes players from Mildura, Bendigo, North Central and the Wimmera, and is one of four country and six metropolitan zones that participate in the Junior State Championships.
Both the North West Lightning Under 17 boys and girls teams were the best placed team from this zone when the both finished fifth in their divisions.
In his first experience at the Junior State Championships, Sandon Schultz, pictured above, played in all six games for his team.
This division was spread over two pools with the preliminary games played on Tuesday and Wednesday. The top two from each pool then progressed to a finals grouping and the remaining teams played off for the lower positions on Thursday, with the final placings decided on Friday.
The Under 17 boys Lightning team started their tournament with a scoreless draw with the South West Country Eagles, where despite having a majority of the play and numerous opportunities to score the Lightening could not get the ball past the Eagle’s gaol keeper.
Their second match was against Southern Metro Sharks and although they led by a goal for most of the match, a late goal by the Sharks proved costly causing another draw.
A six goal loss was suffered at the hands of the eventual premiers, the North West Metro Tigers, saw the Lightning relegated to third in their pool which placed them in the grouping that played off for positions 5 to 8.
Their match against North East Metro Red Devils saw a 2-1 victory and they followed this with an emphatic four goal win over the North East Country Knights which earned them top spot in this pool.
On Friday they again met the North East Metro Red Devils in the play off for 5th place and when this game finished in a nil all draw, due to their finishing position on the Thursday the Lightning team retained that position in the final standings.
The Lightning Under 15 Boys did not enjoy as much success, winning only two of their seven games for the tournament and finishing in eighth position out of ten teams,
The wins came over the South West Country Eagles by one goal and by two goals over the South East Country Cougars, the two teams that finished below the Lightning.
This was Luke Shalders fifth consecutive year representing the Lightning, after being selected for three years in the Under 13 age group and this being his second year in Under 15.
Mikayla Famers received a late call up to play for the South West Eagles, and despite being of an age that she could have played in the Under 15 team, she held her own in the Under 17 division.
The Eagles started their tournament with a two goal loss to the North West Metro Tigers, the eventual premiers, and this proved to be their worst result until a three goal loss to the Western Metro Wildcats in their last game. Their best result was a scoreless draw with the South East Country Cougars, and they ultimately finished in eighth position out of nine teams.
Despite not bringing home any trophies, all three players will bring back invaluable experience which they can build on and share with their Wimmera team mates.