By KATE ALLMAN
It’s here: the final round of regular season matches in the Sultana Bran Hockey One league.
The weekend hits off with the Tassie Tigers crossing the Bass Strait to play HC Melbourne on Thursday night. HC Melbourne has a chance to secure the women’s minor premiership, while the Tassie Tigers men must win or go home if they want to continue on the road to Bendigo.
The women play first, with ladder leaders HC Melbourne out to clinch the minor premiership ahead of finals weekend on 19-20 November. Their ticket to Bendigo is secure but placings are now up for grabs to determine who plays which team on semi-finals Saturday (first plays fourth, and second plays third in semi-finals).
With Melbourne’s finals attendance locked, Hockeyroos goalkeeper Rachael Lynch will take a rest to make way for 19-year-old local star Bridget Laurance to debut in goals for the home team. Laurance was part of the winning Victorian side in the under 21s national championship this year and has recently been named in Australia’s Junior World Cup qualifying squad.
Excitement surrounds the return of former Hockeyroo Madi Ratcliffe, who takes the field for HC Melbourne for the first time this season. Ratcliffe was a leading goal scorer in Season One 2019, being one of four female players to find the net six times.
Gun defender Josie Lawton, who was completing her VCE exams last week, also comes back into the team list as well as goal-hungry forward Ash Utri.
While the Tassie Tigers women are no hope of playing finals, history has shown they play best when the pressure is off. Their only win of this season came in round one – when ladders were nil-all and there was little talk or forethought of Bendigo.
Tassie have some of the league’s best midfielders and defenders in local rising star Maddi Brooks plus American imports Cassie Sumfest and Brooke Deberdine. These key players have the talent to arrest the goal difference Melbourne may look to accrue.
Tassie have also had the luxury of two exceptional goalkeepers to choose from in Evie Dalton and Camilla Vaughan all season. However, sadly, Vaughan – who was due to take the field – tore her quad at training on Tuesday, so Dalton will be in the net for the Tigers.
The script flips in the men’s game.
HC Melbourne have no chance of a finals place; but the fifth-placed Tassie Tigers must win to leapfrog both NSW Pride and Perth Thundersticks on the ladder. With Perth drawing the bye this week, Tassie’s win would cement their final’s position and send the Thundersticks packing.
Tassie’s momentum has been building through the latter half of the season, with the drip feed of star players like Jeremy Edwards, Eddie Ockenden and Jack Welch creating a lineup to be reckoned with.
Signalling their confidence, the Tassie Tigers come into Thursday’s match with no changes. However, their final hurdle in defeating HC Melbourne will be anything but a walkover.
Last week, the Melbourne men found the connections they have been searching for all season – putting nine goals on the scoreboard in a defiant drumming of winless Adelaide Fire.
Kookaburras Craig Marais, Nathan Ephraums and Josh Simmonds were at their ferocious best and looked to be enjoying playing a game without any finals pressure.
Under 21 Burras stars Cooper Burns and Liam Henderson return to the home side just in time to leave Season 2022 with something for crowds to remember them by. Landing a knock-out punch in the Tassie Tigers’ finals hopes could be all the motivation HC Melbourne men need for better results next year.
HC Melbourne v Tassie Tigers
Thursday 10 November 2022
Melbourne Sports Centre – Parkville
Match Start: Women’s 6:30pm local (6:30pm AEDT), Men’s 8:00pm local (8:00pm AEDT)
Broadcast: LIVE and exclusive on Kayo and FOX Sports #HCMvTIG #HockeyOne
Umpires: Iris Milham & Nicola Brown (Women’s), Jim Unkles & Ben Hocking (Men’s)
HC Melbourne Women’s team: 1.Bridget Laurance (gk), 2.Ash Utri, 3.Nicola Hammond, 4.Amy Lawton, 5.Krissy Bates, 86.Josie Lawton, 8.Hannah Cotter, 9.Carly James, 11.Joanne Peeters, 12.Emily Hamilton-Smith, 13.Megan Alakus, 14.Anna Moore, 15.Olivia Downes, 22.Madi Ratcliffe, 25.Hannah Gravenall (c)
In: 1.Bridget Laurance (gk), 2.Ash Utri, 6.Josie Lawton, 22.Madi Ratcliffe
Out: 7.Ciara Utri, 10.Rosario Villagra, 20.Zali Ward, 27.Rachael Lynch (gk)
Tassie Tigers Women’s team: 1.Sarah McCambridge, 3.Hannah Richardson, 4.Maddi Brooks, 5.Taylor Brooks, 7.Maddy Murphy (c), 8.Cassie Sumfest, 9.Emily Donovan, 10.Kiah Williams, 11.Eliza Westland, 12.Lou Maddock, 14.Brooke DeBerdine, 15.Lucy Cooper, 20.Beth Dobbie, 21.Lauren Canning, 25.Evie Dalton (gk)
In: 11.Eliza Westland
Out: 16.Madi Clark
HC Melbourne Men’s team: 1.Craig Marais, 2.Max Hendry, 3.Jonathan Bretherton, 4.Liam Henderson, 5.Doug Buckley, 6.Damon Steffens, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 8.Lachlan Steinfort, 10.Russell Ford, 11.Cooper Burns, 13.Jayshaan Randhawa, 15.Josh Simmonds (c), 17.Kiran Arunasalam, 18.Johan Durst (gk), 22.Nathan Copey
In: 4.Liam Henderson, 11.Cooper Burns
Out: 20.Josh Bretherton, 21.Jake Sherren
Tassie Tigers Men’s team: 2.Tyler McDonald, 4.Hayden Beltz, 6.Josh Brooks, 7.Josh Mardell, 9.Jeremy Edwards, 10.Ruben Hoey, 11.Eddie Ockenden, 13.Joshua Beltz (c), 14.Jack Welch, 15.Kieron Arthur, 19.Tim Deavin, 22.Oliver Pritchard, 23.Henry Chambers (gk), 27.Gobindraj Gill, 32.Jeremy Hayward