The 2021 Lower South East Hockey Association season will be forever covered in blue and green after West became just the third club ever to clean sweep both Division 1 titles.
After a dramatic season finale at Blue Lake Sports Park on Saturday night, West had every reason to party hard after its Division 1 men finally lifted the trophy after years of pain, while its top women’s team sealed a five-peat from the very last play.
David Vine was an integral part of both sides’ success and said it will be hard to forget the joy of Saturday evening.
“This season has to be one of my favourite sporting memories,” he said.
“To achieve the trifecta of West’s Division 1 men, women and the Division 2 women to not only get into the grand final, but to win and have two of the three (Division 1 clean sweeps) in history is outstanding.”
The celebrations were ignited by the Division 1 men, who broke through following years of pain and missed opportunities from three-straight one-on-one grand final defeats.
The game was an arm wrestle as the defensive lines of both sides resisted all attacks during the first half.
West had a goal disallowed for back of the stick – much to the relief of the Strikers defence – by goalie Mason Hill.
Vine marshalled his troops to pile the pressure onto the Strikers, but Jordan and Connor Millhouse were rising to the challenge.
Vine said the game turned into a war of attrition.
“Both teams had a very strong defence, so the game had to be won in the midfield,” he said.
“Aiden Cameron dominated the game and they had Connor Millhouse which made it an arm wrestle.
“It was frustrating because we were not executing our opportunities, but we stuck to our game and in the end, we scored that vital goal.”
The winner came from the stick of Darren Vine, who made the most of a short corner before holding firm in the dying stages.
The final whistle kicked off wild celebrations from the West boys and David Vine said it meant so much because he thought the flag was out of reach.
“At the start of the year we were even thinking of not fielding the team because we did not have the numbers,” he said.
“We were very short after losing eight players from last year, but people returned, improved and we came back.
“We were really pumped to play the big game.”
Cameron was named player of the final.
The perfect night was completed from the West women, who overcame Redbacks to seal the five-peat in a high-scoring thriller.
Both sides hit the pitch with intensity and West landed the first blow thanks to young gun Lily Delaland.
Despite hitting the lead, the reigning premier was kept honest by a hungry Redbacks unit.
Dana Jones had her work cut out in defence against the hard-charging Zara Blackwell and Lauren Manser.
Eventually the Redbacks’ pressure proved too much and Blackwell levelled the scoreboard in the third term.
With a winner still unclear, tensions were high as the clock approached full time and extra time appeared a certainty.
But the likes of Sarah Mutch and Jones kept West’s push going and with just 20 seconds to go the latter drew a vital short corner.
It was trapped by Gemma Ballantyne and pushed across to Tess Kenseley, but she could not beat the Redbacks’ keeper.
The rebound turned into a “chaos ball” which eventually found the stick of Ballantyne, who somehow gathered enough composure to strike the winner in the last play of the game.
Mutch was awarded player of the final, but Vine said the whole team deserved to lift the trophy after a strong season and a nail-biting decider.
“It was very, very nerve-wracking,” he said.
“The girls were fired up and started the game strongly and Sarah and Dana destroyed so many Redbacks’ counter-
attacks in the defence.
“I thought it was going to go into extra time, but we got that short corner to win the game at the very end.
“I feel sorry for the opposition because we all battled so hard and the game came down to one little thing.
“But we deserved it because the girls had a really good year and stepped up in the finals.”