ANYONE who has watched Jaden Ekert from the sidelines when he is acting as a coach will know his passion for the mentoring role is intense.
That is why he has mixed emotions this week as he makes the trip from Bathurst to Townsville for the 2017 Australian Country Championships.
Ekert is excited at the prospect of trying to guide New South Wales Country to yet another national crown, but it means leaving behind the St Pat’s outfit he coaches in the women’s Premier League Hockey competition.
The Saints face an elimination semi-final this Saturday against Confederates.
“It is massive mixed emotions. I wasn’t going to coach the girls at the start of the year because of rep commitments with my coaching, but in saying that, I think it’s the best thing I’ve done,” he said.
“They are a fantastic bunch of girls and you can trust them to do what’s needed.”
That Ekert has faith his players can get the job done in his absence will allow him to focus on his very talented country outfit at the nine-day national titles.
It includes St Pat’s talent Riley Hanrahan, Lithgow representatives Luke Sheppeard and David Reid, plus Nic Milne and Mick Dillon from Orange.
“We do have a handy side, it’s quite ridiculous actually when you look at some of the names in terms of who’s it in,” Ekert said.
“There are some fresh faces and a few Central West players, Nic Milne and Luke Sheppeard – they are fantastic players for their respective clubs.
“It’s fantastic for this comp to have guys of such quality play at such a high level.
“Riley, he’s been playing first grade, but at the state champs he picked himself, he scored 16 goals in six games. You can’t argue with it when you do that.
“We are going for five in a row, so yes, fingers crossed.”
The Australian Country Championships will run from August 11-19, with NSW Country beginning its title defence with a match against host state Queensland Country.
Ekert’s side will also face country teams from Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia plus an Australian Defence Force outfit in its pool games.