Rory Walker and Jake Wigham line-up together each Saturday for Sydney club Norwest Strikers.
But this Sunday afternoon in Newcastle, along with a handful of others from both Norths and Gosford, the teammates will turn rivals and face off against one another in the Hunter Coast Premier Hockey League grand final.
“I feel like there’s a lot of good banter,” the league’s joint top scorer Walker said.
“We play together on the Saturday and then we’re into each other on the Sunday.”
The pair’s campaign with the Strikers down in the state capital, along with Gosford quartet Liam Alexander, Lee Cormack, Rob Maguire and Stu Fletcher as well as Norths’ Nathan Hochman, ended with a draw in the preliminary final on the weekend.
But a premiership trophy remains up for grabs at Newcastle International Hockey Centre on September 16.
It will be the fourth time in as many years that Norths and Gosford have met on grand final day.
This one comes on the back of a fiery encounter between the same two clubs in Newcastle on August 12, with Norths Goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien (12 weeks) and Gosford defender Rhiley Carr (8 weeks) consequently suspended following the on-field altercation.
Norths’ Nick Hill copped a one-match ban, but has already served his punishment. Carr’s brother Lain was given a yellow card during the fixture and that action was deemed sufficient.
A similar fighting incident occurred 12 months earlier in the corresponding round game on the Central Coast.
“You’ve just got to put it behind you,” Walker said.
“We’re pretty disappointed as a club in what happened. There were kids on the sidelines watching. We had a big meeting about it and we weren’t happy with our actions. Now we just want to play hockey.”
Wigham echoed those sentiments from a Gosford perspective.
Minor premiers Gosford won the major semi a fortnight ago 5-0 over Norths, who bounced back against Souths 3-1 in Sunday’s preliminary final.
The spoils were shared in the regular season with the Magpies up 2-0 last month and the Blues victorious 4-2 on April 15. There was a 3-all draw in between.
“Everything is going really well and we [Gosford] have only lost two games all year,” Wigham said.
“We’re on fire at the moment after that 5-0 win in the major semi-final and we’re looking forward to having a good crack on Sunday.”
Gosford claimed last year’s decider 2-1 against Norths, who reversed the outcome in 2016. Gosford also triumphed in 2015. Norths are making their ninth straight grand final appearance.
Meanwhile in the Newcastle women’s premier league and defending champions Tigers meet Oxfords in Saturday’s preliminary final.
On the weekend Tigers overcame Souths 1-0 in extra-time in the minor semi and Oxfords went down to grand final bound Avoca Beach in the major semi following a penalty shootout.
GOSFORD: Nick Holman, Michael Taylor, Lee Cormack, Lloyd Radcliffe, Adam Bosley, Robbie McGuire, Liam Alexander, Stuart Fletcher, Ben Ferguson, Brett Giffin, Kael Webster, Geoff McGuire, Craig Campbell, Charlie Venables, Lain Carr, Jake Wigham.
NORTHS: Eamon Smith, Connor Eyres, Shaun Frazer, Theo Gruschka, Nicholas Hill, Nathan Hochman, Ben Howey, Dane Pettitt, Rory Walker, Matthew Wark, Ky Willott, Jordan Willott, Seth Roach, Hamish Dundas, Benjamin Martin.
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