The Brisbane Blaze have proven to be the shootout kings at the Finals Main Event after emerging 5-3 winners on penalties after an epic JDH Hockey One League Men’s Grand Final decider with NSW Pride was locked 3-3 after full time.
After claiming an unprecedented 10-9 penalty shootout win to emerge from their semi final the previous day, the Blaze again showed their ability to handle the pressure with Jake Whetton scoring the final penalty to secure victory and sparking an ecstatic victory dash.
It was fitting reward after the Blaze had taken an early advantage and then provided stoic resistance to deny the NSW Pride a third-consecutive men’s title.
Both sides had early sighters at goal in a nervy beginning, before Corey Weyer assisted Cale Cramer with a brilliant deflected finish to break the deadlock after 17 minutes before duly converting to make it 2-0.
Challenged, the previously undefeated Pride provided an immediate response with Blake Govers slamming home a penalty corner flick.
But the Blaze continued to carve out opportunities and in the shadows of half-time Weyer drilled a penalty corner flick home.
The third quarter saw the Pride dominate possession in their front half of the ground, but the Blaze were well served by the defensive work of Kookaburras trio Tim Howard, Daniel Beale and Whetton.
A yellow card to Blaze midfielder Max Harding swung momentum further into the defending champion’s arms, with Govers drilling another penalty corner flick after 52 minutes to set up a thrilling finish.
Brisbane had time for Joel Rintala to crash a penalty corner flick against the woodwork before facing a stern examination late on.
As Blaze appeals for a late set piece were waved away, the Pride went coast-to-coast to earn a late penalty corner which Govers slammed home to complete his hat-trick and give him a staggering seven goals in the finals series.
With a bevvy of international stars required to compete in the penalty shootout, the Blaze were faultless with Scott Boyde, Weyer, Rintala and Beale all scoring. When Kookaburras and Pride midfielder Flynn Ogilvie sent his effort over the bar, it set the stage for Whetton’s winner.
“It’s a specialist skill and I put myself in a position to do something for the group that the other boys did, so to put it in the back of the net…I’ve been on the other end of that…you go back to the drawing board, work hard at it and it pays off,” said Whetton.
“A shootout is essentially a new game…it’s five on five and the best execution of that skill comes out in those moments.”
“I’m really proud of our boys…NSW is an unbelievable group of players that have shown over three seasons that they are incredibly hard to beat.”
“For us to come out, put it to them and come out on top, I’m super proud of our group.”
“I love representing Queensland and love helping the young guys come through and showing them the ropes. I grew up wanting to play for Queensland and hope we have the state proud.”
In the bronze medal match, HC Melbourne and the Tassie Tigers put on an entertaining, willing contest, the Victorians holding on for a tense 2-1 victory.
Tassie went ahead courtesy of a Jeremy Hayward missile from a penalty corner on the stroke of quarter time before fellow fellow drag flick specialist Josh Simmonds responded for HC Melbourne in the 17th minute.
The winner came in the 45th minute when Ben White hammered home from the angle. HC Melbourne was forced to hold off a late Tassie barrage with late controversy as the Tigers had an equaliser ruled out at the death.
Match report courtesy of Adam Clifford.
Men’s Grand Final
NSW Pride 3 (Govers 20’/52’/60’)
Brisbane Blaze 3 (Cramer 17’/17’, Weyer 24’)
Brisbane Blaze won shootout 5-3
Umpires: Steve Rogers and Zeke Newman
NSW Pride Men’s team: 1.Lachlan Sharp, 2.Tom Craig, 5.Ash Thomas (gk), 7.Daine Richards, 8.Nathanael Stewart, 13.Blake Govers, 14.Dylan Martin, 15.Miles Davis, 19.Jack Hayes (c), 20.Ky Willott, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Ryan Woolnough, 27.Ben Craig, 29.Tim Brand, 34.Thomas Miotto
Unused substitute: 3.Nathan Akroyd (gk)
Brisbane Blaze Men’s team: 2.Shane Kenny, 3.Corey Weyer, 5.Lucas Brown, 8.Adam Imer, 10.Cale Cramer, 12.Jake Whetton (c), 13.David Hubbard, 14.Tyler Gaddes, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Scott Boyde, 19.Luke Randle, 21.Max Harding, 23.Daniel Beale, 27.Joel Rintala, 32.Mitchell Nicholson (gk)
Unused substitute: 18.Aaron Weiss (gk), 25.Hayden Pease
Men’s 3v4 Play-Off
HC Melbourne 2 (Simmonds 17’, White 45’)
Tassie Tigers 1 (Hayward 15+)
Umpires: Jim Unkles and Aaron Gotting
HC Melbourne Men’s team: 5.Douglas Buckley, 6.Damon Steffens, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 8.Lachlan Steinfort, 9.Nathan Copey, 10.Brad Marais, 12.Connar Otterbach, 13.Jayshaan Randhawa, 14.James Knee, 15.Josh Simmonds (c), 17.Kiran Arunasalam, 18.Johan Durst (gk), 19.Jordan Rees, 22.Ben White, 26.Eden Davis, 29.Nicholas Fitzgerald
Unused substitute: 88.Ben Hooppell (gk)
Tassie Tigers Men’s team: 1.Magnus McCausland (gk), 4.Hayden Beltz, 5.Ewan Vickery, 6.Josh Brooks, 7.Josh Mardell, 8.Joseph Murphy, 9.Jeremy Edwards, 12.Sam McCulloch, 13.Josh Beltz (c), 14.Jack Welch, 16.Alex Hogan-Jones, 19.Tim Deavin, 20.Ehren Hazell, 23.Henry Chambers (gk), 27.Gobindraj Gill, 30.Alistair White, 32.Jeremy Hayward