THE just-completed Australian Hockey League was a showcase for the region’s hockey talent.
The two-week tournament saw the cream of players in the country converging on Canberra and Perth to decide the national champions and, joining the likes of Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles, Eddie Ockenden, Casey Eastham and Madonna Blyth, were a host of players raised in the North West.
They weren’t just filtered through the NSW sides either, with Kimmy Hill lining up for Tasmania and Tom Lobsey playing with home side Canberra in the men’s tournament.
In the NSW teams themselves, there was Tamworth’s Matt Willis and Armidale’s Cody Tribe with the men and Tamworth’s Kate Jenner, Hollie Webster and Steph Purdy and Armidale’s Georgina Morgan representing the Arrows.
They finished with silver after going down to Victoria 5-1 in the final.
Morgan gave the Arrows the perfect start, striking in only the fourth minute.
She had a good couple of weeks, also scoring in their semi-final win over Queensland on Friday.
On Saturday after scoring that early goal, the Arrows conceded three in the last nine minutes of the first half to be 4-1 down at the break after Victoria had equalised earlier through an own goal.
Two minutes into the second half they went up 5-1 and there was no way back from there for the Arrows.
Hill and her Tassie Van Demons side didn’t fare any better, edged out 3-2 by the Northern Territory Pearls in their play-off game.
Twice they got back to within a goal after falling two behind but weren’t able to get any closer than that.
Down in Canberra, the Waratahs missed out on the bronze after being overrun by Victoria 3-1.
The Waratahs had Victoria under immediate pressure and led by Matthew Butturini, captain Simon Orchard and Tristan White applied a high intensity through the
Despite the pressure, the Victorian forwards were able to break free, with Daniel Mirecki, captain Russell Ford and Justin Ellis combining to force a penalty corner.
Until late in the game, corners were Victoria’s achilles heel and this occasion was no exception as NSW gained possession with a breakdown in the set play and Orchard and Josh Miller combined to set up Flynn Ogilvie.
That was to be their only goal for the game.
The second half was an entirely different game, with Victoria assuming the role of aggressor, and errors creeping into the Waratahs.
Time and time again, the Vikings forced penalty corners but they were unable to convert any opportunities from set plays.
Finally in the 62nd minute, they were rewarded when Chris Ciriello moved to the left attack and his hit-in near the back line found Ford unmarked just outside the circle.
Ford stepped into the circle and slammed the ball past keeper Nathan Ackroyd. Four minutes later, another attack by Victoria saw Matthew Guest in possession.
He was unceremoniously tackled in mid-circle by a desperate NSW defence and a penalty stroke was awarded. Ciriello made no mistake, with a flick high into the net.
With nothing to lose, Ackroyd was substituted as NSW opted to play with 11 field players but a rampant Victoria quickly forced a penalty corner and the Waratahs were unable to keep out Ciriello’s flick.
Lobsey and the Lakers also suffered final-day defeat to finish sixth.
Northern Territory scored the only goal of the second half to upset the more-fancied Lakers 2-1.