By KATE ALLMAN
Minor premierships and finals places are once again on the line as a heated contest looms between Brisbane Blaze and Adelaide Fire for the final 2022 Friday night double header of Sultana Bran Hockey One.
The women play first, with fifth-placed Brisbane Blaze facing a must-win contest against Adelaide Fire to secure their ticket to the finals in Bendigo over 19-20 November.
The out-of-finals-contention Fire will not make it easy: their midfielders and strikers including in-form Gabi Nance and Miki Spano have looked dangerous all year. Fill-in captain Sarah Harrison, who is steering the ship while Hockeyroo veteran Jane Claxton has been away, would love to get a last win on the board before flying home to South Australia.
At the back, team USA keeper and FIH Pro League player Kelsey Bing has made scoring a task for all opponents. She kept the Hockey One women’s trophy favourites HC Melbourne to just two goals before she left the field last week as Adelaide Fire threw an extra player into attack. But an unfortunate defensive error allowed Melbourne to walk into empty goals in her absence.
Brisbane Blaze women have overcome wobbles in the first few rounds of Season Two 2022 and appear to be gaining stride in defiance of naysayers who dubbed early-round losses a sign of team “malaise”.
They sent a message by striking down a similarly in-form NSW Pride two weeks ago, and now head into Friday’s match with an extra week’s rest after sitting out the bye in Round Six.
Rising Hockeyroos star Hannah Cullum-Sanders, who scored a goal and conversion last week, has been key to creating scoring capabilities. Expect a fascinating test of her young powers against Bing in the net.
Experienced Hockeyroos Savannah Fitzpatrick and Rosie Malone also appear to have stepped up their leadership efforts in recent matches, alongside captain Morgan Gallagher. If the Blaze can find the same confidence in connections to goal across the field, the resulting win would lock in a ticket to Bendigo.
Signalling confidence, the home side has made no changes to their winning lineup from Round Five.
In the men’s game, ladder leaders Brisbane Blaze have their finals place locked after upsetting defending champions NSW Pride in Round Five. A win on Friday night would secure the minor premiership and a first-place berth heading into semi-finals.
Kookaburra Daniel Beale will not play – perhaps taking a rest before next weekend’s two-day challenge in Bendigo – however the team’s depth has been evident all season.
Kookaburras Jake Whetton, Tim Howard, Corey Weyer, Jacob Anderson and Joel Rintala form an intimidating backbone for the home side. Meanwhile, the stick of Cale Cramer has been arguably the team’s most valuable asset – he has scored eight goals this season and put away a hattrick last match.
What might halt the onslaught is national development squad goalkeeper for the Adelaide Fire Christian Starkie, who has made a name for himself blocking shots in any corner of the net. His team is hunting its first win of the season, coming off an echoing 9-1 defeat to HC Melbourne last week.
But the Fire have star power in Under 21 Burras striker Jack “Hollywood” Holland, who seems able to score no matter the speed or awkwardness of his approaching angle. Angus Fry is another young gun to watch up front, while Matthew Magann has been showing his strength in midfield attacks.
The away men have a last-ditch chance to scupper Brisbane Blaze’s minor premiership hopes on Friday night. Expect them to bring the heat.
Brisbane Blaze v Adelaide Fire
Friday 11 November 2022
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Match Start: Women’s 5:30pm local (6:30pm AEDT), Men’s 7:00pm local (8:00pm AEDT)
Broadcast: LIVE and exclusive on Kayo #BBZvADL #HockeyOne
Umpires: Kerryl Brown & Tara Leonard (Women’s), Ben De Young & Arron Gotting (Men’s)
Brisbane Blaze Women’s team: 1.Savannah Fitzpatrick, 2.Ambrosia Malone, 3.Casey Dolkens, 4.Ashlea Fey, 5.Morgan Gallagher (c), 7.Hannah Cullum-Sanders, 12.Tatum Stewart, 13.Rebecca Greiner, 14.Meg Pearce, 19.Morgan Mathison, 22.Britt Wilkinson, 24.Claire Colwill, 25.Kyra Livermore, 30.Georgina West, 88.Jordan Bliss (gk)
Adelaide Fire Women’s team: 1.Linzi Appleyard, 4.Chloe Carter, 5.Kelsey Bing (gk), 7.Kate Holland-Smith, 8.Holly Evans-Gill, 10.Carly Hoffmann, 11.Lucy Sharman, 13.Sarah Harrison (c), 16.Jet Mallinson, 18.Erin Cameron, 19.Gabi Nance, 20.Hattie Shand, 21.Miki Spano, 23.Izzy Gill, 30.Julia King
In: 4.Chloe Carter
Out: 17.Siennah Cowles
Brisbane Blaze Men’s team: 2.Shane Kenny, 3.Corey Weyer, 5.Lucas Brown, 7.Joel Rintala, 8.Adam Imer, 9.Jacob Anderson, 10.Jayden Atkinson, 11.Michael Francis, 12.Jake Whetton (c), 13.Ethan White, 15.Cale Cramer, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Scott Boyde, 18.Aaron Weiss (gk), 32.Mitchell Nicholson (gk)
In: 10.Jayden Atkinson, 18.Aaron Weiss (gk)
Out: 23.Daniel Beale, 27.Jared Taylor
Adelaide Fire Men’s team: 2.Connor Richmond-Spouse, 3.Isaac Whittaker, 5.Jack Holland, 6.Angus Fry, 7.Geoff Abbott, 8.Brodie Gleeson, 9.Fred Gray, 11.Cameron Joyce, 14.Nathan Hochman, 15.William Abbott, 18.Alastair Oliver, 19.Glyn Tamlin (c), 20.Matthew Magann, 22.Christian Starkie (gk), 23.Cameron White
In: 11.Cameron Joyce, 14.Nathan Hochman
Out: 12.Mitchell Dell, 17.Zach Rakkas