Corporal Ashley Birt
Corporal Ashley Birt

Sacred Gympie hockey game postponed

HOCKEY: The Ashley Birt memorial game marks a special day on the Gympie sporting calendar but this year has been postponed.

Usually held as the annual opener between the Cooloola Heat Men’s team and Maryborough Brothers, the match has been rescheduled due to low player numbers in Maryborough.

Ashley Birt lost his life in Afghanistan serving his country.
Ashley Birt lost his life in Afghanistan serving his country.

The game has been a tribute to Ash, who lost his life in Afghanistan serving his country.

Birty, as he was known by friends, played hockey for both teams during his young hockey career, before joining the army.

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Heat coach Dominic Stephens has played in the match since the first one took place in 2012, and said it was a shame it had to be moved this year.

Cooloola Heat's Dom Stephens works the ball up the field supported by Alec Lee (left).
Cooloola Heat's Dom Stephens works the ball up the field supported by Alec Lee (left).

“Birty would have been the same as me. We played all our junior hockey together and it has been special for me playing in this game,” he said.

“I feel a bit empty not to play it at the start of the season. To me, it is probably the most important game of the season. It is more than just hockey”.

Corporal Ashley Birt
Corporal Ashley Birt

With a few young players blooded to the squad last year, Stephens wanted them to understand the importance of this game.

Ashley Birt when he represented Maryborough as a junior. Photo: Griffith Thomas / Fraser Coast Chronicle
Ashley Birt when he represented Maryborough as a junior. Photo: Griffith Thomas / Fraser Coast Chronicle

“There is so much passion and emotion in this game. We have a great rivalry with Maryborough and I was looking forward to the young guys experiencinge that first up,” he said.

“We make a good point for anyone who did not know Birty personally so they get an idea what sort of person he was.

Corporal Ashley Birt, described as true larrikin by his mates.
Corporal Ashley Birt, described as true larrikin by his mates.

“It is definitely not cancelled; just postponed. We will catch up with Brothers later in the season and pick a suitable weekend for both clubs”.

The Heat have a bye for the first round next Saturday, March 14 and their first game is against Caloundra at Buderim on Sunday, March 22.