By Adam Clifford
A final day of high quality and high drama in the regional city of Parkes delivered an exciting end to the Sultana Bran Hockey One League 2022 Season as Canberra Chill Men proved they are the real deal, while NSW Pride Women knocked the Chill out of contention.
Canberra Chill have sewn up second position on the Sultana Bran Hockey One League Men’s ladder with a clinical 3-0 defeat of NSW Pride in front of a packed crowd in Parkes.
Like the conductor of an orchestra, Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter guided his men around the park in perfect harmony defensively, while the Chill counter punched with brilliant use of the aerial to rock the Pride.
NSW were expected to benefit hugely with the return of Kookaburras stars Tom Craig, Flynn Ogilvie and Matthew Dawson, and whilst the former was at the heart of the Pride’s best attacking moves, their returns appeared to unsettle the team chemistry.
The Pride will now face the Brisbane Blaze in next Saturday’s semi-final coming off three consecutive losses, while the Chill will meet the Perth Thundersticks.
“We’re playing really well and creating good opportunities and we’re just putting them away,” Aidan Dooley said post-game.
The first half undoubtedly belonged to Chill star James Day, as he opened the scoring in the fifth minute with his sixth goal of the campaign from a set piece.
At the other end, NSW Pride’s opening two penalty corners were saved by Day in the postman position sweeping in front of Charter.
The Chill momentarily thought they had found a second goal when Ben Staines deflected past Pride goalkeeper Ash Thomas, but it rightly came a split second after the quarter time siren.
NSW almost found a response when Sam Mudford blazed over the crossbar, after pouncing on the rebound to Ryan Proctor’s first effort.
But at the other end Aidan Dooley was causing headaches as he latched onto the end of two Sean Baker aerials to earn penalty corner opportunities for the visitors.
Ky Willott and Daine Richards both had half chances, but they were snuffed out by an alert Charter, before the Pride found themselves down to ten men with the sending off of Proctor.
The ensuing period of possession for the Chill eventually resulted in Davis Aitken and Ben Staines combining to unlock the Pride defence, allowing Dooley to thrash home an unstoppable tomahawk strike to make it 2-0.
Thomas would predict Dooley to favour his reverse side and saw off his conversion opportunity to keep the home side very much in the contest.
Craig and then Ehren Hazell would come close to score for the Pride, before Jamie Hawke knocked home the sealer at the third time of asking, after Jake and Ben Staines had both had efforts repelled by Thomas in goals.
Both sides will now finalise their preparations ahead of the Main Event in Bendigo next weekend, with a tantalising semi-final line up awaiting on Saturday.
NSW Pride 0
Canberra Chill 3 (Day 5’, Dooley 44’, Hawke 56’)
Saturday 12 November 2022
McGlynn Sporting Complex – Parkes
Umpires: Zeke Newman & Stirling Sharpe
NSW Pride Men’s team: 2.Tom Craig, 5.Ash Thomas (gk), 6.Matthew Dawson, 7.Daine Richards, 8.Nathaniel Stewart, 9.Nathan Czinner, 14.Dylan Martin, 15.Miles Davis, 20.Ky Willott, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Ryan Proctor, 25.Jack Hayes (c), 26.Ehren Hazell, 28.Sam Gray, 33.Sam Mudford
Canberra Chill Men’s team: 2.Ben Staines, 3.Anand Gupte, 4.James Day, 6.Connor Tuddenham, 7.Ben Craig (c), 8.Sean Baker, 9.Jamie Hawke, 10.Owen Chivers, 11.Garry Backhus, 12.Jake Staines, 15.Hayden Dillon, 16.Oscar Smart, 17.Aidan Dooley, 24.Davis Atkin, 30.Andrew Charter (gk)
In a dramatic final day of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League, the NSW Pride have secured their semi-final place with an emphatic 6-0 defeat of the Canberra Chill in Parkes, knocking the visitors out of the top four.
The Pride qualified in second position for their first Hockey One League finals and sounded a clear warning to their title rivals in the process with the damaging performance.
In doing so, the result also secured fourth position for the Brisbane Blaze after they defeated the Adelaide Fire at home on Friday evening to leapfrog the Chill.
A second half hat-trick to Alice Arnott placed the icing on the cake for a brilliant day’s entertainment in regional NSW, following on from Grace Stewart’s classy opening half brace.
The carnage could have been horrific for the Chill had it not been for the brilliant goalkeeping of Rene Hunter and Japanese star Shihori Oikawa.
“We came here to do a job today, we’re really happy to get it done. We knew it would be tough, but we put in a really good team performance, which is great leading into finals,” Player of the Match Stewart told Kayo post-game.
After defeating the Tassie Tigers 5-0 last weekend, the Pride found the net in all four quarters in a commanding performance and have minor premiers HC Melbourne in their sights.
“We’ve scored a lot of goals from a lot of different girls. Even last week, we had a lot of different girls on the scoreboard so that’s good going into finals knowing that we’re scoring a lot of goals.”
“I hope we’ll meet them (HC Melbourne) in the grand final because a high scoring match always makes for an exciting match, so should be good.
The match itself was an open affair, played in warm conditions in front of over 1,000 boisterous Parkes hockey fans.
It took just four minutes for Stewart to open the scoring, slamming a bullet forestick beyond Hunter after a well-recovered penalty corner routine.
The Chill would have four of the next five penalty corners of the match, but the Pride again scored from their next set play opportunity with Morgan Blamey touching home Abby Wilson’s low flick at the far post.
Lauren Yee tried to spark the visitors, turning over possession to earn another penalty corner, before returning to force a brilliant reflex save from Hockeyroos keeper Jocelyn Bartram with a tomahawk strike.
But a minute before half-time, the Chill’s defensive group were caught out and Blamey fed Stewart for an easy second – her eighth goal of the league season to secure the top goal scorer award.
Hunter didn’t buy what Stewart was selling and expertly denied the conversion attempt to keep the damage to 3-0 at the main break.
From there, Hunter’s goal was under siege and several times the Pride stung her palms, with Arnott helping herself to three goals in an eye-catching display.
Her second was sublime, as she read the by-line pass and desperation personified, dived at full strength before deflecting into the top bins of the net.
It was a truly comprehensive performance, securing the Pride’s third clean sheet of the campaign and made up for their finals miss in Season 1.
HC Melbourne will now tackle defending champions the Brisbane Blaze in a repeat of the 2019 grand final that ended with an epic penalty shootout, while the Pride will face the Perth Thundersticks for a spot in the big dance next Sunday in Bendigo.
NSW Pride 6 (Stewart 4’/29’, Blamey 11’, Arnott 41’/51’/51’)
Canberra Chill 0
Saturday 12 November 2022
McGlynn Sporting Complex – Parkes
Umpires: Kristy Robertson & Cassidy Gallagher
NSW Pride Women’s team: 1.Jocelyn Bartram (gk), 2.Sarah Johnston, 4.Kendalle Tait, 6.Estelle Hughes, 7.Grace Stewart, 8.Alana Kavanagh, 10.Greta Hayes, 19.Morgan Blamey, 20.Maddi Smith, 21.Alice Arnott, 23.Abigail Wilson, 24.Mariah Williams (c), 30.Makayla Jones, 31.Emma Spinks, 32.Grace Young
Canberra Chill Women’s team: 1.Mikayla Evans, 4.Madison Doar, 6.Katie Doar, 7.Naomi Evans (c), 8.Laura Reid, 11.Sophie Gaughan, 14.Emily Robson, 16.Shihori Oikawa, 18.Olivia Martin, 21.Mikaela Patterson, 23.Kalindi Commerford, 24.Sarah White, 25.Lauren Yee, 28.Catriona Bailey-Price, 32.Rene Hunter (gk)