By Adam Clifford
The Perth Thundersticks men’s team remain undefeated in season 2 of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League after a late 4th quarter winner. Brisbane Blaze women claim their first win of the season against the Perth Thundersticks in a breezy 3-0 victory.
A late Will Battistessa goal has separated Sultana Bran Hockey One League heavyweight pair the Perth Thundersticks and Brisbane Blaze in an exceptionally high skilled clash at Curtin University Stadium.
With scores locked 2-2 in the final stanza, Brisbane piled on the early pressure before stand-in Thundersticks skipper Tim Geers created a magical moment for Battistessa to claim the winner.
All the pre-match talk had centred on the absence of Kookaburras stars Jake Whetton and Tim Howard (Brisbane) and Aaron Zalewski and Tom Wickham (Perth), but the future of Australian hockey stole the show from the first pushback.
It took just seven minutes for Liam Flynn to open the scoring for the hosts, with an expertly taken penalty corner flick after an earlier sighter.
Flynn was a constant nuisance for the Blaze defensive group to continue his Kookaburras selection push, while Blaze midfielder Jayden Atkinson certainly would have turned the heads of national selectors with his all-action display.
Flynn drew an extraordinary save from Blaze goalkeeper Mitchell Nicholson after 20 minutes, before the Blaze gained a foothold on the match through the run of Atkinson and aerial prowess of Corey Weyer.
Joel Rintala fired a warning shot from the Blaze’s set piece opportunities, with Kookaburras shot stopper Ben Rennie forced into a difficult save to protect their 1-0 advantage into half-time.
This contest had all the hallmarks of a big final and the Blaze found an equaliser through the quick reactions of Cale Cramer, after Rintala had his flick initially saved.
It wouldn’t take long for the hosts to regain their one goal buffer, with Flynn converting his second set piece flick, after James Collins had completed an incredible jinking run through the heart of Brisbane’s defence.
Right on three-quarter time, Rintala would again bring the sides level with his radar zeroing in on the bottom left-hand corner.
Momentum was with the Blaze early in the final term, before Geers manufactured room in the attacking circle to fire a shot goal bound and Battistessa did the rest to claim a vital home win for the Thundersticks in front of their faithful.
Post-game, Liam Flynn was delighted to continue his goal scoring run and see his side step up without some key stars.
“Yeah, it’s always nice to get on the scoresheet but beating Brisbane at home is a pretty good feeling,” Flynn reflected.
“I think it was pretty balanced in the end with the numbers out (for both sides), so I think it came down to squad depth in the end and the end score shows how deep both teams go. We’re lucky we scraped through.”
The Thundersticks now sit clear on top of the table with three consecutive wins, which Flynn believes will allow them to start turning their attention to peaking in November’s final series in Bendigo, Victoria.
“We’ve built a really good base at the moment and hopefully we can take it through to finals and win a few games there, that would be nice.”
Perth will now head to Sydney for another mouth-watering contest against fellow undefeated side the NSW Pride in a not-to-be-missed Friday night clash from 6:30pm, while Brisbane will return home to host a desperate HC Melbourne needing to win to keep their season alive on Saturday night.
Perth Thundersticks 3 (Flynn 7’/35’, Battiestessa 54’)
Brisbane Blaze 2 (Cramer 32’, Rintala 45’)
Saturday 15 October 2022
Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University (WA)
Umpires: Daniel Johnston & Nathan Jennings
Perth Thundersticks Men’s team: 2.Will Battistessa, 3.Tim Geers (c), 5.Bryn de Bes, 6.James Collins, 8.Brodee Foster, 11.Tom Harvie, 12.Alistair Murray, 13.Cambell Geddes, 14.Liam Flynn, 16.Harry Golding, 19.Ben Rennie (gk), 20.Sasha Thomas, 21.Ross Hall, 22.Ben Taylor, 24.Matt Willis
Brisbane Blaze Men’s team: 2.Shane Kenny, 3.Corey Weyer, 5.Lucas Brown, 6.Josh Mynott, 7.Joel Rintala, 9.Jacob Anderson, 10.Jayden Atkinson, 11.Michael Francis, 13.Ethan White, 14.Isaac Layton, 15.Cale Cramer (c), 17.Scott Boyde, 18.Aaron Weiss (gk), 27.Jared Taylor, 32.Mitchell Nicholson (gk)
“Beware the wounded Queenslander” rang the cry from the visiting Brisbane Blaze side ahead of their Sultana Bran Hockey One League clash away to the undefeated Perth Thundersticks.
The winless Blaze side answered their critics in emphatic fashion with a 3-0 snatch-and-grab job on the ladder leaders, with an aggressive performance that has now thrown the title race wide open.
Having fallen to the Tassie Tigers and Canberra Chill in the opening two rounds, it was a case of now or never for the Blaze and they arrived at the Curtin University Stadium with a steely resolve and renewed determination.
For the Perth Thunderstrikes, it was a night to forget with their penalty corner battery failing to fire and Hockey One’s leading scorer Line Malan unable to breach the defence of debutant Blaze goalie Jordan Bliss.
Speaking post-match, goal scorer Hannah Cullum-Sanders spoke of the soul-searching work the Blaze had done in seeking to resurrect their campaign.
“I’m so proud of the girls. It’s been disappointing the last couple of weeks, but we came to training on Tuesday, we sat in a room for an hour and a half, we threw everything on the table and cleaned it all up,” Cullum-Sanders revealed.
“We set one goal for tonight and that was to play with heart, and we did it. We came out and we just supported each other and I’m so proud of the girls.”
Both sides had traded scoring opportunities in the opening stanza before Cullum-Sanders stole possession on halfway and drove past impressive Thundersticks goalkeeper Aleisha Power to earn a late penalty corner.
Up stepped Blaze defender Tatum Stewart to slide home an important opener for the travelling side’s confidence.
The match became a real arm wrestle with Malan thrashing a strike against the woodwork for the home side, before Britt Wilkinson similarly glanced the post mid-way through the third quarter for Brisbane.
The moment of the match came from the stick of Cullum-Sanders, who created enough space in traffic to fire a remarkable tomahawk strike into the top left-hand corner to put the visitors up 2-0.
Power would get enough of a toe to Cullum-Sanders’ conversion attempt to limit the deficit, but as time became the enemy for Perth, she was withdrawn in favour of playing an additional attacker.
A late Brisbane set piece would enable Stewart to complete her second goal and the sealer with a powerful flick, to send the ladies in Orange into party mode.
Speaking of her remarkable goal, Cullum-Sanders credited the many hours of practice, but was also quick to focus her attention to the Blaze building upon this performance.
“We’re practicing those shots all the time as individuals. It was so good to see it worked out tonight, so I’m just really happy with that,” the match winner shared.
“Now we’re just going to keep going because tonight was an example of how good we can play.”
“I know that we can play better. We had a disappointing start, but we’re building up and I’m really keen to see what we can do in the next few weeks.”
Having jumped into third position on the table, Brisbane will host league leaders HC Melbourne in a replay of their epic 2019 women’s grand final on Saturday night from 6:30pm, while Perth will hit the road for an important top four clash against NSW Pride on Friday evening.
Perth Thundersticks 0
Brisbane Blaze 3 (Stewart 15’/60’, Cullum-Sanders 52’)
Saturday 15 October 2022
Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University (WA)
Umpires: Nicola Brown & Aleisha Neumann
Perth Thundersticks Women’s team: 1.Kate Denning, 2.Kyra White (c), 7.Penny Squibb, 8.Georgia Wilson, 9.Shanea Tonkin, 10.Sarah Byrnes, 11.Rachel Frusher, 12.Line Malan, 13.Neasa Flynn, 16.Karri Somerville, 17.Annie Gibbs, 18.Renee Rockliff, 19.Aleisha Power (gk), 21.Jade Vanderzwan, 25.Jolie Sertorio
Brisbane Blaze Women’s team: 1.Savannah Fitzpatrick, 2.Ambrosia Malone, 3.Casey Dolkens, 6.Dayle Dolkens, 5.Morgan Gallagher (c), 7.Hannah Cullum-Sanders, 12.Tatum Stewart, 13.Rebecca Greiner, 19.Morgan Mathison, 22.Britt Wilkinson, 23.Ruby Harris, 24.Claire Colwill, 25.Kyra Livermore, 30.Georgina West, 88. Jordan Bliss (gk)