Grassroots Gators gear up

Inline hockey

THE Gippsland Gators’ own ‘bash brothers’ Chris and Jesse Stredder will lead the home team into battle at the inline hockey Australasian Club Championships this weekend at Stadium 34, Moe.

Three Gators teams will test the waters against about 30 of the top teams in Oceania, and are keen to sink their teeth into the visiting opposition.

With $2000 up for grabs, and selection for an international touring team on the line, Gators player Brendan Lindhe expects the locals to shine in the seven-team division one competition.

“We’ll be quite competitive… hopefully third or fourth and looking for a finals spot,” he said.

“We’re playing players that some of us have never played before… it will be whole different range of players and skill levels and it will be an excellent tournament.”

Despite the similarities to ice hockey, the Gators won’t be running anything from the Mighty Ducks playbook according to Lindhe, who ruled the ‘flying V’ out of the locals’ arsenal.

“We’ve got nothing like that planned, we just kind of take it as it comes and try our best, work with what we know, don’t go too tricky and work off the basics,” he said.

Having picked up inline at the age of 16 after watching his uncle in action, 23 year-old Lindhe said the skating based non-contact sport placed its emphasis on skill over strength.

“It’s a good skilful game, it doesn’t require a lot of physical strength against your opponent; if you can move your feet quicker than them 90 per cent of the time you’re off on your own,” he said.

Still searching for his first goal in national competition, Lindhe’s plan for the Australasian championship was straightforward.

“My aim for this tournament is to at least put one away and hopefully two or three,” he said.

As a grassroots sport, inline hockey is still relatively underground in Australia, but a four team competition in Moe has been going strong for almost three years.

Currently in its seventh season, the competition divides players into evenly matched sides, with the skill levels ranging from rank beginner to international standard.

Stadium 34 runs an introductory development hour prior to its Thursday night competition from 5.30pm to 6.30pm for prospective players at a cost of $5.

Stadium 34 managing director Matt Beatson said Moe’s hosting of the Australasian inline tournament was part of a vision to attract more high profile events to the centre.

“We’ve got one of the largest facilities in Australia so we want to bring (big events) here to showcase the facility,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to bring an event like this to Moe and it’s a great thing for the local community… with the flow on effect.”

The competition runs over the Easter weekend and entry is free for spectators.