NET GAIN: Northern Star players celebrate a goal in a Far North Coast A-grade men's hockey grand final against Coraki and,  below right,  the complex at Goonellabah, which now has two turf fields. The enhanced facility and a planned increase to six teams in the top competition are expected to give the sport a big boost.
NET GAIN: Northern Star players celebrate a goal in a Far North Coast A-grade men's hockey grand final against Coraki and, below right, the complex at Goonellabah, which now has two turf fields. The enhanced facility and a planned increase to six teams in the top competition are expected to give the sport a big boost. JERAD WILLIAMS

Hockey Boost: six-team competition on the cards

A-GRADE men's hockey on the Far North Coast is set for a big boost with the proposed inclusion of Grafton team Bears and the traditionally strong Waratahs club from the Tweed.

Former Far North Coast association president and now Goonellabah hockey complex manager Clint Mallett said yesterday that the new arrangements would be fantastic for the game locally.

"Six teams would put a whole new perspective on the competition,” he said.

"We've played inter-association for a few years now but this would be home-and-away games for A-grade and reserve grade through the full season leading into the finals series.”

However, when Bears play Waratahs it will be at Goonellabah or Ballina to reduce travel.

Far North Coast has been limited to four A-grade men's teams for decades - Northern Star, East Lismore, Coraki and Ballina.

The additional clubs would provide more variety for the best local players and create more of a contest for finals spots.

Mallett said the main obstacle to the move was with Waratahs trying to sort out insurance and other issues due to the Tweed Border association having always been affiliated with Queensland.

"It's not financially practical to be affiliated with both states,” he said.

"It's also a bit of a shame for the Border association which, like Grafton, will be reduced to just organising the lower grades.

"It's been a terrific breeding ground for hockey, with many Australian representatives.”

Mallett said that as with other sports, the proximity of strong Gold Coast competitions had influenced what was happening on the Tweed.

He said the Kingscliff and Casuarina clubs would now play north of the border.

No changes were planned for Far North Coast A-grade women's hockey, with the four teams competing against each other and, for part of the season, in the inter-association games against Tweed Border clubs.

Mallett said that with three turf fields running - two at Goonellabah and one at Ballina - compiling draws would be much easier.

It was also a great boost to the region in attracting carnivals with four already booked for this year: the Australian Under-21 championships, the Australian Under-18 championships, NSW PSSA and NSW Combined Catholic Colleges.