The defending champions silenced a franchise record crowd of over 1,600 in Brisbane with hot starts from both NSW Pride sides stunning the Brisbane Blaze.
The reigning women’s title holders picked up right where they left off last season with Makayla Jones finding ex-Canberra Chill star Laura Reid for a simple finish after seven minutes.
Reid expertly tucked away her conversion to immediately put the home side on the back foot.
As the seconds wound down to the first quarter siren, NSW Pride forward Abigail Wilson crashed an incisive pass through to Grace Stewart lurking in behind the Blaze defence, with the Hockeyroo forward smashing home an unstoppable shot off the inside of the post.
Blaze keeper Jordan Bliss needed her helmet to save Stewart’s venomous tomahawk conversion chance to leave the hosts 0-3 down at the first break.
The Pride managed their way through the middle stages of the match, with opportunities from Blaze trio Rosie Malone, Savannah Fitzpatrick and Hannah Cullum-Sanders unable to trouble NSW keeper Jocelyn Bartram.
But a clever late penalty corner taken from outside the dotted circle from the Blaze saw them strike back through Maddy Fitzpatrick when her goal bound slap hit was turned in, but Bartram would not be denied on the conversion opportunity to keep the scores at 3-1 turning for home.
With Maddison Smith, Grace Young and Mariah Williams all prolific, NSW Pride continued to carve out scoring chances until the final siren in a dominant performance that will undoubtedly make their opponents sit up and take notice.
“It was really good to start with a win on the board and it was a good, hard contest against the Blaze who fought really hard, and this win sets us up really well going forward,” Grace Stewart said post-match.
“Besides goal scoring, I think we can tidy up a few things in our press and maybe our outlet.”
“There are definitely areas we can improve, so we’ll look at it and hopefully make those adjustments heading into our next game against HC Melbourne.”
In the men’s contest, it was a case of ‘catch us if you can’ with NSW Pride opening up a 2-0 advantage after just 34 seconds of play before going on to secure a 7-3 victory over the Blaze.
Dealt a blow before push-back with the loss of star forward Cale Cramer to a foot injury, the Blaze were pushing further up hill when Blake Govers assisted Tim Brand for the first minute opener.
Brand’s conversion opportunity was classily completed to double their advantage and the sharp link-up play was a sign of what was to come from the Pride.
Pride goalkeeper Ash Thomas would claim Player of the Match honours largely thanks to an inspired performance between the posts, denying Michael Francis, Jacob Whetton and Corey Weyer, before first round star Diarmid Chappell fired wide in an action-packed opening quarter.
But the moment of the match arrived when Brand fed a pinpoint aerial pass to Tom Craig inside the attacking circle, who completed an astonishing overhead strike to score after nineteen minutes.
It was a goal reminiscent to ex-Kookaburra Kieran Govers’ strike against England in the 2014 World Cup and will be certain to feature prominently across social media platforms throughout the week.
Blaze keeper Mitch Nicholson gathered himself to deny Craig with his stick, before his teammates had another patch of ascendency at the other end.
Jacob Anderson, fresh off four goals in round one, was twice denied expertly by Thomas within a minute, as well as Blaze teammate Jacob Whetton, before the Pride slammed home their fourth from Ky Willot’s drag flick.
Within seconds of the re-start after half-time, Brand added his second assist to his brace when Jack Hayes completed an overhead smash from a rebound off Nicholson, then surprised the shot stopper with a direct conversion strike to stretch the scoreboard to 6-0.
But the Pride weren’t done there with Blake Govers ensuring they went one hundred percent from set pieces with a thunderous penalty corner flick after 34 minutes.
Incredibly, the Blaze would win the penalty corner count 5-2 in the end and claim two brilliant goals in their own right.
First, Anderson got his deserved goals for a second consecutive impressive showing when he controlled the ball and fired it into the top left-hand corner and duly converted with a neat tomahawk strike.
Seeking to eat into the deficit, the Blaze also slammed home a third goal when Corey Weyer received a set piece outside the five-yard zone and subsequently thrashed home a strike into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Any faint hopes of a Blaze fightback were snuffed out when Nicholson denied Weyer’s conversion and Scott Boyde’s late tomahawk sailed inches wide.
“We worked pretty hard pretty early, and we got in front with a bit of breathing room and they started pressing,” Blake Govers said post-game.
“I think we kept attacking early and we were really structured. We played through the hands nicely and trusted our skills, led off each other and the game was just flowing for us.”
“We changed a few things later on and they got on top of us, so we need to sharpen that up.”
Every match of the JDH Hockey One League 2023 Season is LIVE and free on 7plus.
Match report courtesy of Adam Clifford.
Match Details – Women’s Match
Brisbane Blaze 1 (M. Fitzpatrick 45′)
NSW Pride 3 (Reid 7’/7′, Stewart 15′)
Saturday 14 October 2023
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Brisbane Blaze Women’s team: 1.Savannah Fitzpatrick, 2.Rosie Malone, 4.Claire Colwill, 5.Morgan Gallagher (c), 6.Hannah Cullum-Sanders, 7.Jodie Kenny, 8.Dayle Dolkens, 9.Casey Dolkens, 10.Madison Fitzpatrick, 11.Morgan Mathison, 12.Tatum Stewart, 13.Rebecca Greiner, 14.Steph Kershaw, 23.Ruby Harris, 88.Jordan Bliss (gk)
NSW Pride Women’s team: 1.Alice Arnott, 3.Jocelyn Bartram (gk), 7.Laura Reid, 8.Greta Hayes, 13.Sarah Johnston, 14.Makayla Jones, 16.Alana Kavanagh, 20.Kaitlin Nobbs, 24.Maddison Smith, 25.Emma Spinks, 26.Grace Stewart, 27.Kendelle Tait, 30.Mariah Williams (c), 31. Abigail Wilson, 32.Grace Young
Match Details – Men’s Match
Brisbane Blaze 3 (Anderson 53’/53′, Weyer 58′)
NSW Pride 7 (Brand 1’/1′, Craig 19′, Willot 28′, Hayes 31’/31′, Govers 34′)
Saturday 14 October 2023
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Brisbane Blaze Men’s team: 1. Will Mathison, 2.Shane Kenny, 3.Corey Weyer, 5.Lucas Brown, 9.Jacob Anderson, 11.Michael Francis, 12.Jake Whetton (c), 13.David Hubbard, 15.Jayden Atkinson, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Scott Boyde, 19.Luke Randle, 21.Max Harding, 24.Diarmid Chappell, 32.Mitchell Nicholson (gk)
NSW Pride Men’s team: 2.Tom Craig, 5.Ash Thomas (gk), 7.Daine Richards, 8.Nathanael Stewart, 9.Nathan Czinner, 13.Blake Govers, 14.Dylan Martin, 15.Miles Davis, 19.Jack Hayes (c), 20.Ky Willott, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 28.Sam Gray, 29.Tim Brand, 32.Callum Mackay, 34. Thomas Miotto