The Brisbane Blaze have fine-tuned their JDH Hockey One League finals preparations with a pair of strong victories against the Perth Thundersticks, in turn going on to claim the inaugural One Hockey Cup in front of a brilliant home crowd at the Queensland State Hockey Centre.
A hat-trick from returning Kookaburras forward and last season’s leading goal scorer Joel Rintala guided the Blaze Men to a 5-1 defeat of the Perth Thundersticks, shutting the door on the visitors’ JDH Hockey One League campaign.
Struck down by bouts of illness midweek, the Thundersticks Men’s loss meant the Tassie Tigers held onto fourth position to qualify for next weekend’s Main Event in Canberra by virtue of goal difference over the Adelaide Fire.
This was followed by the Brisbane Blaze Women claiming an entertaining 6-3 home win, securing top spot on the JDH Hockey One League women’s table and setting up a tantalising re-match in next week’s semi-final.
The Blaze Men refined their strategies ahead of next week’s semi-final against HC Melbourne with a comprehensive display, with an injury to Kookaburras defender Tim Howard the only concern.
Brisbane needed just three minutes to get the scoreboard ticking with Corey Weyer crashing home a well-executed penalty corner strike.
After wasting their first set piece, Perth then conceded their second penalty corner in succession when Rintala opened his account by ripping a powerful flick into the bottom right-hand corner after 13 minutes.
The Thundersticks then went on an unsuccessful run of five consecutive penalty corner opportunities as Trent Mitton and James Day threatened without reward.
Their wastefulness went punished in the shadows of the main break when a free-flowing counter attacking move by the Blaze saw Rintala crash a first-time tomahawk into the roof of the net.
To add salt into the wounds, Rintala sat Perth’s Ben Rennie and converted on his reverse stick side to make it 4-0 at half-time.
Will Battistessa sent a tomahawk over the crossbar early in the third term, before Jake Harvie found the net, only to have the umpire correctly rule it out for an earlier infringement.
But finally, on the seventh time of trying, Day torpedoed a drag flick into the top right corner of the net from a penalty corner after 43 minutes to keep the visitors’ hopes alive.
Both sides traded early opportunities in the last quarter before the Blaze devastatingly exposed the Thudnersticks after the withdrawal of their goalkeeper in the final six minutes.
An electric receive, burst from the contest and incisive reverse stick pass from Jake Whetton fed Diarmid Chappell to finish into the empty net and consolidate Brisbane’s second placed finish.
“I think we take a bit of momentum now (into finals). We really needed…a good win today with a tough, gritty fight and I think we had that,” Player of the Match Adam Imer said post-match.
“We’ll prepare well again next week and hopefully we can put it all together in Canberra.”
In front of a parochial home crowd of over 1,800 fans, Brisbane Women got the perfect start when Hockeyroos star Steph Kershaw slammed home a fore stick strike after four minutes.
Thundersticks keeper Lizzy Duguid responded to deny Kershaw’s conversion attempt, before teammate Penny Squibb drew the sides level shortly after with a penalty corner flick.
Before quarter-time, Britt Wilkinson chalked up her second goal of the season for the Blaze with a close-range deflection to reinstate their one goal buffer, before Duguid again repelled the two-goal play.
The speed of Brisbane’s play continued to pose problems for the Thundersticks and Rosie Malone, fresh from her nomination for FIH World Player of the Year, deflected home after 24 minutes.
Again, Duguid denied the additional conversion attempt, while at the other end Perth continued to create circle entries without the end-product.
Seconds into the second half, the Blaze again broke through the previously stingy Thundersticks defences thanks to Camryn Mathison’s intercept and assist for Wilkinson to add her second goal of the match, before the sharpshooter crashed her conversion attempt against the woodwork.
Mathison returned to combine with Savannah Fitzpatrick to knock home under a helpless Duguid in the 40th minute, with the former Hockeyroo finally deceiving the shot stopper with a clinical conversion chance that stretched the scoreboard to 6-1.
Perth continued to press forward in waves and earned a late converted goal from Lexie Pickering that was consolation for their efforts and will buoy their hopes of a turnaround performance in next week’s semi-final in Canberra.
“We said at half-time we didn’t want to take the brakes off and keep attacking and working on the things we needed to do,” Blaze captain Morgan Gallagher said of their strong start to the third quarter.
“We get a lot of attacking plays, so we’re trying to make sure we get good conversions in and setting our structure.”
Every match of the JDH Hockey One League 2023 Season is LIVE and free on 7plus.
Match report courtesy of Adam Clifford.
Match Details – Men’s Match
Brisbane Blaze 5 (Weyer 3’, Rintala 13’/30’/30’, Chappell 56’)
Perth Thundersticks 1 (Day 43’)
Sunday 19 November 2023
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Brisbane Blaze Men’s team: 1.Will Mathison, 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, 21.Max Harding, 24.Diarmid Chappell, 27.Joel Rintala, 32.Mitchell Nicholson (gk)
Perth Thundersticks Men’s team: 1.Matthew Bird, 2.William Battistessa, 3.Tim Geers, 4.Jake Harvie, 9.James Day, 11.Tom Harvie, 12.Alistair Murray, 13.Brayden King, 14.Matthew Willis, 16.Brodee Foster, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 18.Ben Rennie (gk), 20.Frank Main, 23.Cambell Gedes, 25.Trent Mitton
Match Details – Women’s Match
Brisbane Blaze 6 (Kershaw 4’, Wilkinson 14’/32’, Malone 24’, S.Fitzpatrick 40’/40’)
Perth Thundersticks 3 (Squibb 9’, Pickering 56’/56’)
Sunday 19 November 2023
Queensland State Hockey Centre
Brisbane Blaze Women’s team: 1.Savannah Fitzpatrick, 2.Rosie Malone, 3.Kendra Fitzpatrick, 5.Morgan Gallagher (c), 8.Dayle Dolkens, 9.Casey Dolkens, 10.Madison Fitzpatrick, 11.Morgan Mathison, 13.Rebecca Greiner, 14.Stephanie Kershaw, 16.Keeley Walker, 17.Camryn Mathison, 21.Emily Kingston (gk), 22.Britt Wilkinson, 30.Georgina West
Perth Thundersticks Women’s team: 1.Pippa Morgan, 3.Neasa Flynn, 6.Sarah Byrnes, 7.Penny Squibb (c), 8.Georgia Wilson, 9.Shanea Tonkin, 10.Jesse Reid, 12.Liné Malan, 13.Lexie Pickering, 14.Elizabeth Duguid (gk), 15.Belle Ramshaw, 17.Annie Gibbs, 18.Renee Rockliff, 19.Georgina Dowd, 24.Britney DeSilva