Hockey clean-sweep

Hockey clean-sweep

Another Lower South East Hockey Association has come to a dramatic conclusion with a huge weekend of grand finals at Blue Lake Sports Park.

The biggest celebrations were saved for Tigers and West who respectively won the Division 1 men and women’s titles.

But 2022 will be mainly remembered as the year of the Tiger with the club becoming the first to win every single men’s grade in the single season.

The last team to lift the trophy was the Division 1 men, who had reclaimed the place they gave up last year and desperately wanted back.

They did it in dominant style, beating reigning premiers West 5-2 under the Saturday night lights of Blue Lake Sports Park.

Victorious Division 1 men’s coach Connor Grant struggled to find the words to describe his team’s and club’s achievements.

“There are not enough works to explain in it,” he said.

“It has been such a brilliant season and to win is a next level feeling.

“It took a lot of hard work and preparation with heaps of people coming out to training and trying to get better.”

But at one stage Tigers’ hopes and dreams of success in the top grade looked distant when underdog West sent a statement straight away.

After a minute’s silence was held in memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the videoing crane was lifted in place, West only needed two minutes to hit the lead after Gavin Robertson perfectly executed a short corner.

While the setback could have put Tigers in a tough position, Grant said it was used as an extra source of motivation to get the job done and he was extremely pleased with how his side responded.

“It was not the best feeling when West scored the first goal in the opening minutes, but it just drove the boys a lot more,” he said.

“We knew we could get on top of them as quick as they got on top of us, so it just drove us to get back on our game.

“They came out a lot quicker than what we were expected, but as soon as they scored we picked up the pace and matched them to play the way we wanted to play.

“Just seeing the boys link up and build the chemistry straight after was the best thing ever.”

Tigers slowly wrestled back possession and it did not take long for Grant and Brady Cooper to put their team into the lead before half time.

With the game still up for grabs Tigers made a statement after the main break by reaching top gear and racing towards a four-goal lead.

Even a late consolation goal to Robinson failed to spoil the Tigers’ party as they celebrated a return to the top.

Coach Grant was named best on ground for his gutsy efforts in the middle, but said the medal could have gone to any of his teammates.

“Honestly it could have gone to five other guys because I do not feel like anyone stood out.

“Everyone played their role perfectly.”

While the Tigers men partied a return to the top, the West women were in familiar territory enjoying a sixth straight success.

Despite many of the same faces like Dana Jones, Gemma Ballintyne (pictured), Angela Broad and Sarah Mutch still getting the job done, coach Brayden Burston said each part of the six peat feels special in its own way with young gun Mercedes Theobald leading from the front in 2022.

“It is a different team and group of girls every year,” he said.

“Even though it is six in a row it is a new team with new players and we had some experienced players like Ashlea Dunn and Carly Emmerson come back and Mercedes just gives us that spark of electricity.

“The girls were great,”

The 1-0 win may not have been as stressful as last year, but the 2022 decider was still a hard-fought affair against Redbacks.

With the likes of Steph Wrighton, Jade Delaney, Shae Delaney and Lauren Manser wrestling back the possession, Redbacks actually enjoyed the majority of the play in the first half.

But the West defence held strong every time to ensure the scoreboard remained scoreless at the main break and Burston paid credit to new keeper Christina Jachmann.

“We had a new keeper in Christina and has been great all year,” he said.

“Carly was another new addition and they were all just rock solid down there (in defence).”

After a scoreless first half some were wondering one on ones or a golden goal was required to split these evenly matched teams.

But with only three minutes left on the clock in the third term, Dunn scored the breakthrough which was enough to put West on the path to victory.

It was a big relief for Burston, who said the goal came about from a focus on the counterattacks.

“We had been targeting our counterattacks quite a bit to get those one on ones and two on ones going forward,” he said.

“Especially with someone like Ash who has lots of pace and experience, so we had been knocking on the door and it was a sigh of relief when it went in.

“It had been such a see-sawing game and I was very nervous because Redbacks had so much pace and counterattacks, but kudos for our defence to hang on.”

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