Can Hockey Club Melbourne stop the formidable force that is the NSW Pride? All signals would say they face a momentous task but when it comes to cutthroat finals anything is possible.
Six wins from as many starts, 32 goals scored and only five goals conceded – the NSW Pride have been head and shoulders above the rest of the competition this season and head into their home semi final against HC Melbourne with the knowledge they defeated their opponents 6-1 at home less than three weeks ago.
Any doubts on how the Pride would cope with the loss of injured star striker Blake Govers were comprehensively dismissed as they put five goals past Brisbane Blaze last weekend, Ky Willott and Tom Craig both bagging doubles.
NSW Pride Head Coach Brent Livermore has made three changes from the victory over the Blaze, bringing in Nathanael Stewart, Tristan White and Sam Gray as they look to take another step in what is shaping as a remarkable season.
One thing that is guaranteed in matches involving HC Melbourne is goals and plenty of them. There have been at least six goals in all of HC Melbourne’s matches this season, including a record 10-5 win over Canberra Chill.
While scoring goals has been a regular occurrence, the challenge for HC Melbourne Head Coach Lachlan Anderson and his team will be how to keep them out at the other end. HC Melbourne have scored only three goals fewer than NSW Pride but conceded 25 more, so their defensive unit headed up by Kookaburras goalkeeper Johan Durst will need to be at the top of its game if the Victorians are to be any chance of toppling the high flying Pride.
They said it…
Brent Livermore (NSW Pride Head Coach)
“Our preparation has been sound – players are being challenged by searching for continual improvement.
“We are searching for ways to be better and refinement in what we have delivered so far. Physically it has been more of a freshen up and taper type approach, so they are both physically and mentally ready against HC Melbourne on Saturday.”
“Our primary focus will be around execution. They (HC Melbourne) are a good side with many talented players who could defeat any team in this comp, so we have to be ready to deliver and execute.”
“To date it has been a building, challenging yet rewarding season. But all this goes out the window come finals as we come up against the best teams in the league.
“We have built our way of play and strategies each week and players are embracing the challenge that is put upon them. Now they must go out there and execute.”
Kurt Lovett (NSW Pride forward)
“We’ve been reviewing video of their game against Adelaide Fire from last weekend and have also been looking at our own clips on what we can work on going forward.
“As a team we want to just keen moving forward. We know we can still improve even though the results have been really positive.
“We’re pretty lucky with the depth we have in our strikers group and particularly flicking as Blake (Govers) has been lethal at penalty corners.
“Guys like Ky Willott have really stepped up and shown they’re ready to play at this level, so we’re definitely confident going in again without Blake. His injury is really unfortunate but those things happen.”
“I think some of the boys will be more nervous than they have been for some of the other games but we’re looking forward to playing at home in front of a home crowd. We can’t wait to get out there.”
Josh Simmonds (Hockey Club Melbourne defender)
“We’re pretty confident. Traditionally we match up pretty well against New South Wales. We had a bit of a tough time of it against in the regular season but we’re hoping to turn the tide and get the win.”
“We weren’t on our game that day we lost to them so we’ve gone back, done our homework on them and I’m sure we’ll be more competitive come Saturday.”
“We’ve done well in an attacking sense this season but we definitely have to work on plugging up the other end and limiting their attacking opportunities.”
“They’ve got a line up littered with talent across every line, so I think it will come down to identifying their strengths and also some of their weaknesses that will give us some opportunities.”
NSW Pride v HC Melbourne
Saturday 9 November 2019
Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre (NSW)
Match Start: 1:00pm local (1:00pm AEDT)
Tickets: Click here for ticketing details
Broadcast: LIVE and exclusive on Kayo
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #NSWvHCM #HockeyOne
NSW Pride Men’s team: 1.Lachlan Sharp, 2.Tom Craig, 5.Ash Thomas (GK), 6.Matthew Dawson, 8.Nathanael Stewart, 12.Kurt Lovett, 18.Tristan White, 19.Jack Hayes, 20.Ky Willott, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Ryan Proctor, 24.Dylan Martin, 28.Sam Gray, 29.Timothy Brand
In: 8.Nathanael Stewart, 18.Tristan White, 28.Sam Gray
Out: 7.Daine Richards, 11.Hayden Dillon, 26.Ehren Hazell
HC Melbourne Men’s team: 1.Craig Marais, 2.Max Hendry, 3.Simon Borger, 7.Will Gilmour, 9.Nathan Ephraums, 10.Russell Ford, 12.Connar Otterbach, 14.Jonathan Bretherton, 15.Josh Simmonds, 17.Kiran Arunasalam, 18.Johan Durst (GK), 21.Jake Sherren, 25.Aaron Kleinschmidt, 29.Oscar Wookey
In: 17.Kiran Arunasalam
Out: 5.Andrew Philpott
Past Match Results
NSW Pride Men’s Team (Finished 1st)
Rd 1 v Adelaide Fire (H): W 2-1 (Hazell 42’, Govers 45’)
Rd 2 v Canberra Chill (A): W 7-0 (Craig 30’, Govers 42’/58’, Lovett 51’/51’, Brand 56’/56’)
Rd 3 v Tassie Tigers (H): W 4-2 (Govers 5’/25’/29’/33’)
Rd 4 BYE
Rd 5 v HC Melbourne (H): W 6-1 (Lovett 10’/10’/27’, Govers 37’/37’, Ogilvie 52’)
Rd 6 v Perth Thundersticks (A): W 8-1 (Govers 5’/5’/25’, Willott 30’, Brand 36’/43’/43’, Dawson 45’)
Rd 7 v Brisbane Blaze (A): W 5-0 (Sharp 2’, Willott 45’/45’, Craig 60’/60+’)
Top goal scorers: Blake Govers 12; Tim Brand, Kurt Lovett 5
HC Melbourne Men’s Team (Finished 4th)
Rd 1 v Perth Thundersticks (A): W 6-5 (Ephraums 7’/8’, Ford 11’/12’/32’)
Rd 2 v Brisbane Blaze (H): L 2-4 (Simmonds 4’/43’)
Rd 3 BYE
Rd 4 v Canberra Chill (H): W 10-5 (Arunasalam 14’/30’/30’/41’, Kleinschmidt 14’, Marais 15’, Gilmour 25’/25’/37’/37’)
Rd 5 v NSW Pride (A): L 1-6 (Ford 58’)
Rd 6 v Tassie Tigers (A): L 6-5 (Ephraums 14’, Simmonds 23’/23’/30+’/33’)
Rd 7 v Adelaide Fire (H): W 6-5 (Ephraums 2’, Kleinschmidt 33’/33’, Ford 37’/37’, Simmonds 45+’)
Top goal scorers: Josh Simmonds 7; Russell Ford 6; Kiran Arunasalam 4