By Adam Clifford
NSW Pride have made their first home fixture of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League season count as the men’s and women’s teams both held off fast finishing Perth Thundertsticks outfits.
The highly anticipated Sultana Bran Hockey One League top of the table men’s clash between the NSW Pride and the Perth Thundersticks certainly didn’t disappoint, as the former saw off five penalty corners after the final siren to secure a 4-3 win.
NSW Pride fans were treated to a high-quality match in Homebush, featuring superb goals and even more insane goalkeeping that will undoubtedly be trending across social media platforms for days to come.
The Perth Thundersticks had entered the match with a penalty corner record of 8 goals from 21 attempts but could only muster one deflected finish from their eleven penalty corner opportunities, with Kookaburra Dylan Martin running down three efforts after the final siren.
“We really had to dig deep, especially at the end. Perth really came at us but as you can see, Dylan Martin ran down three at the end and that’s just how we play,” Pride forward Ehren Hazell said post-match.
Hazell had opened the scoring for the hosts in just the 6th minute after lashing home a strike after latching onto skipper Jack Hayes through ball.
“Hayesy just got the ball and I thought I’d just sprint through. He put the perfect ball, nicely weighted, and I saw the goalie staying back, so I just thought I’d hit the crap out of it and it just happened to go in,” Hazell recalled humorously.
After forcing a re-take with the ensuing conversion, Hazell doubled the Pride’s advantage with a neat routine that ended with a clinical tomahawk finish.
The host’s advantage was quickly wiped away though as Perth’s Chris Bausor flicked into the top left-hand corner from the penalty spot after Jake Harvie was crunched by Pride returnee Flynn Ogilvie.
Harvie regathered himself to coolly slot the conversion effort, after sending Pride goalkeeper Ash Thomas to the carpet.
The Pride went 4-2 up in the 28th minute when Daine Richards latched onto an outrageous upright reverse goal shot out of mid-air to send the ball up into the postage stamp, before doubling down with his conversion.
Whilst down a player, the Perth Thundersticks took the intensity up a notch when Aran Zalewski deflected home from their fourth set piece to bring the margin back to one goal.
The next five minutes of action, fans were left speechless as first Thomas made a massive save from Liam Flynn’s drag flick, only to see former-Kookaburras shot stopper Tyler Lovell go one better with a world-class stick save from point blank range.
NSW Pride had the opportunity to close out the match after Sam Mudford earned a penalty stroke, but again Lovell produced a blinder to deny Hayes from the spot.
It left the door ajar for the visitors and after Alistair Murray’s quick thinking was rewarded with a set piece at the death, Martin would be called upon to do the heavy lifting as the Pride saw off five repeat penalty corner opportunities for a gutsy victory in their first home game of the season.
NSW Pride remain at home to face the Brisbane Blaze next Friday night at Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre, while Perth will return west to host a desperate Tassie Tigers side on Saturday afternoon from 4:30pm local time.
NSW Pride 4 (Hazell 6’/7’, Richards 28’/28’)
Perth Thundersticks 3 (Bausor 9’, J.Harvie 9’, Zalewski 48’)
Friday 21 October 2022
Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre
Umpires: Zeke Newman & Ben Hocking
NSW Pride Men’s team: 5.Ash Thomas (gk), 7.Daine Richards, 14.Dylan Martin, 15.Miles Davis, 18.Charlie Dorman, 19.Tom Brown, 20.Ky Willott, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Ryan Proctor, 25.Jack Hayes (c), 26.Ehren Hazell, 28.Sam Gray, 32.Callum Mackay, 33.Sam Mudford, 35.Rory Walker
Perth Thundersticks Men’s team: 1.Chris Bausor, 2.Will Battistessa, 3.Tim Geers, 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Bryn de Bes, 6.James Collins, 7.Tyler Lovell (gk), 10.Tom Wickham, 11.Tom Harvie, 12.Alistair Murray, 14.Liam Flynn, 16.Harry Golding, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 22.Ben Taylor, 24.Matt Willis
At three quarter time, NSW Pride coach Peter Shea labelled his backline as “solid as a rock”, and he proved correct as his charges ground out a 2-0 victory against a fast-finishing Perth Thundersticks in round four of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League action.
In front of 1,241 screaming fans, the Pride held on valiantly in the final quarter to withstand persistent Thundersticks attacking forays.
Often unheralded for her non-nonsense teamwork, NSW Pride’s Sarah Johnston was pivotal in the host’s clean slate to claim the Player of the Match award.
“Really exciting. It was such a great game. We were lucky to get a goal in the first quarter and we absorbed a lot of pressure, so I’m really proud of the girls for grinding it out and really defending as a team for that last quarter,” Johnston said post-game.
“We’re really happy with how we’re going. We’ve had obviously the girls come back from Perth. It’s been really exciting for us to get together and we’re really proud of how we’re continuing to get better.”
The match had begun with Pride forward Grace Stewart, fresh off a hat-trick, firing an early warning side on Thundersticks keeper Aleisha Power’s goal off her tomahawk.
NSW broke the deadlock through an unlikely source in skipper Maddi Smith after a third consecutive penalty corner was taken outside the five and spilled loose at the head of the circle.
Smith needed no further invitation to pounce, unleashing a tracer bullet forestick shot into the bottom corner in the 21st minute.
A clinical conversion by Smith doubled the advantage, putting them firmly in the box seat to cap their first home match with a win.
Towards the end of the second term, the Pride led the circle entry count 10-1 before the Thundersticks drew a smart save from Pride keeper Zoe Newman from a set piece.
Britney DeSilva was forced into a last gasp save to deny the home side a third goal, as they launched a blistering counterattack in the shadows of the main break.
The third term was a real arm wrestle, with a nasty collision between Thundersticks skipper Kyra White and Pride’s Julia Bradley forcing the former to receive further attention.
As the minutes began to tick away, Georgia Wilson, Jade Van Der Zwan, Karri Sommerville, Penny Squibb and Rachel Frusher all had opportunities to pull a goal back for the visitors but there would be no penetrating the defences of the courageous Pride.
NSW Pride midfielder Grace Young, Johnston and Smith were all excellent with their defensive work to ensure they secured back-to-back victories in the Sultana Bran Hockey One League.
The gutsy win now sets up a tantalising encounter at home against the Brisbane Blaze next Friday night in what shapes as a mouth-watering double header in Sydney, while Perth can consolidate their ladder position with victory at home against the Tassie Tigers the following day.
NSW Pride 2 (Smith 21’/21’)
Perth Thundersticks 0
Friday 21 October 2022
Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre
Umpires: Cassidy Gallagher & Michelle Farnill
NSW Pride Women’s team: 2.Sarah Johnston, 3.Hannah Kable, 4.Kendalle Tait, 7.Grace Stewart, 8.Alana Kavanagh, 9.Zoe Newman (gk), 10.Greta Hayes, 13.Tamsin Bunt, 18.Julia Bradley, 19.Morgan Blamey, 20.Maddi Smith (c), 23.Abigail Wilson, 24.Mariah Williams, 30.Makayla Jones, 32.Grace Young
Perth Thundersticks Women’s team: 1.Kate Denning, 2.Kyra White (c), 3.Candyce Peacock, 7.Penny Squibb, 8.Georgia Wilson, 9.Shanea Tonkin, 11.Rachel Frusher, 12.Line Malan, 13.Neasa Flynn, 16.Karri Somerville, 17.Annie Gibbs, 19.Aleisha Power (gk), 21.Jade Van der Zwan, 24.Britney DeSilva, 25.Jolie Sertorio