By Nick Creely
Nestled within Berwick College, the Casey Cannons Hockey Club has had a strong imprint on the local community since its establishment in 1989.
As local sport continues its successful resurgence back into communities after the difficulties presented by Covid-19 in 2020, hockey is just one of many sports bouncing back with plenty of gusto.
With a strong contingent of men’s and women’s senior sides in 2021, and a junior program which is still looking to bounce back, the club is well placed for the present, and the future as it knuckles down for a huge season.
Cannons president David Hyland said that while the recovery from Covid-19 has presented plenty of challenges, particularly in the junior ranks, the vibe around the club has brought plenty of smiles as they encourage people to get down and cherish the sport’s triumphant return.
“It’s early days, but we feel like it’s going to be a good year for the club,” he said.
“It’s a great vibe at the club, we’re getting really good numbers to training from each unit so that’s been really significant.
“We’re really driving that, it’s been our focus – success off the field will bring success on the field as a whole unit, so we want to encourage people to come and watch games, before and after they play and get involved.”
The Cannons have got very strong senior representation this season across the different divisions.
“We’re flying when it comes to seniors, we’ve four men’s teams, three women’s, but can’t quite the fourth once up and running,” Hyland said.
“We’ve had people just wanting to get out, and so our men’s teams have had a lot of returns that haven’t played for a few years.
“We definitely feel we’re pretty strong, we’ve got some strength this year in our sides.
“The women’s numbers are solid; we’re getting great numbers to training.
“It’s early on, but we’re really confident that we’re going to be pretty successful this year.”
Hyland said the club has had issues getting its Under 16, Under 14, Under 12 and Under 10 junior sides thriving – similar to all sports in the region.
“Junior wise, almost like every club, it’s been a struggle, and we’ve heard that across the board,” he said.
“With Covid, kids are losing interest – I’ve heard of basketball and netball teams going from four teams to just one, and in the hockey world we’re experiencing the same stuff.”
The club also had a significant individual milestone on the weekend, with club great Hilary Doulton playing her 400th match at home. She capped off the occasion in style, scoring the opening goal.
Hilary started back in 1996 when the club was named Berwick Hockey Club, and has been a loyal club member for 25 continuous years. Adding to her remarkable loyalty, Hilary won a premiership in 2003 and has played the majority of her hockey in the top two grades.
“It is a great achievement – she’s been at our club a long time and been mainly in the top grades,” Hyland said.
“Hilary is one of those people that has stuck by us – you get players that go away and play elsewhere and then come back, so to spend 25 years at the club is quite an achievement.”
The Cannons also have another significant milestone on the horizon in the coming weeks, with life member Jeff Reidy to play his 600th game.
Part of the club since 1992, it’s an astonishing feat, and a remarkable show of loyalty.
“He’s been a long-term member of this club, a committee member and it’s a great achievement,” Hyland said.
“He’s one of those people that just does everything around the club.”