THE powerful Taree Tigers will be strongly represented in NSW hockey teams for the Australian Masters Championships in Adelaide next month.
Sisters Michelle and Nicole Clark will play in the women's 35 side with Katrina Hayes in the women's 50s. Tony Lewis will coach the women's 45s.
Hayes is a veteran in the masters divisions. This will be the second time she's worn the Sky Blue and the third time she's been to a national title.
However the Clark sisters and Lewis will be making their debut.
"This is the first time I've nominated for a State job and I was lucky enough to get the gig,'' Lewis said.
He admits to being amazed at the standard of hockey at the recent trials held in Newcastle. Lewis further admits to being a bit overawed to be coaching a squad with four current Australian representatives. All are past Hockeyroos.
"I'm just doing some training programs now,'' he said.
"It's going to be a bit different coaching players who have represented Australia.''
The team will train for three days leading into the championships, where NSW will be among the favourites for honours.
Lewis credits the influence of former Olympian Warren Birmingham for his rise to State coaching level.
"He's been my mentor,'' he said.
"I've learnt a lot from Warren and also from Beth Shae.''
While this will be his first State appointment, Lewis hopes for further appointments. He currently coaches Tigers division one men and women as well as the division two men and has been among the most successful coaches in Manning hockey's history.
Michelle Clark admitted she "shed a few tears," when she was named in the State 35s.
"It's a dream come true,'' she said.
"And to have Nic with me will make it even more special.''
The Clarks were identified to attend selection trials for the State squad in Newcastle.
"Just to be asked to go there was unbelievable,'' Michelle said.
"I didn't really think I'd make it. Now I can't wait to go to Adelaide.''
Michelle, 36, expects to play left midfield, but thinks she'll fill-in a number of positions during the tournament.
Younger sister, Nic, held back the tears but said she was just as excited when her name was read out.
"It's just going to be an amazing experience,'' she said, admitting she was anything but confident of making the team when she saw the talent on show in the trials.
"I'm just so glad I went to the trials - this is my first year in the masters and I thought getting asked to go (to the trials) was an accomplishment.''
Nic thinks she'll play in a defensive position.
"We have a few days of training when we first get to Adelaide so I'll know more then,'' she said.
Hayes was a member of the winning NSW 50s team last year in Melbourne.
She said she "felt alright" about her chances of making the squad this year and believes she'll play in the halves.
In fact, for Hayes this will be the third time she's been to an Australian masters, but only the second time with NSW.
"I missed out on the NSW team three years ago when I was named a shadow reserve, but was drafted into the Tasmanian side for the championships in Perth,'' she explained
Holli Wheeler is just back from representing the NSW country side in the Australian Country Championships in Western Australia. She was co-captain of the team. Wheeler has since been named in the Australian Country team to tour New Zealand next year.