Now that the 2023 JDH Hockey One season has come to an end, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back on the season that was for the Perth Thundersticks men’s team.
After falling just short of winning Hockey One gold in the 2022 season, the Perth Thundersticks returned in 2023 looking to go one better.
While 15 members of the 2022 squad returned for another run, the Perth Thundersticks brought in some returning stars, young guns, an overeast recruit and a new head coach in Craig Wilson.
Led by captain Aran Zalewski, the Thundersticks were quick to get a win on the board, opening their 2023 campaign with a 4-1 victory over Canberra Chill.
The Round One match-up saw the return of Trent Mitton and Brayden King, while Matt Bird made his Hockey One debut, and new recruit James Day ran out for the Thundersticks for the first time, going up against his old team.
Day put on a penalty corner masterclass, scoring a hat-trick during the first half.
Day’s domination, combined with commanding performance by goalkeeper Ben Rennie and Tom Wickham, helped the Thundersticks on their way to recording their first win for the season.
After having the bye in round two, the Thundersticks needed to continue building momentum as they travelled to Tasmania to take on the Tassie Tigers.
The Round Three match-up saw Alistair Murray and Brodee Foster make their return to the Hockey One field.
However, the Thundersticks were met with a tough challenge amid relentless defence and a strong performance by Max Larkin in goals.
The Thundersticks found themselves on the backfoot as the Tigers worked up a lead during the first half, with Tom Wickham breaking through to score before half time.
Although the Thundersticks threw everything at the Tigers, the visitors were left stunned with a 1-2 loss.
Looking to bounce back from their round three loss, the Thundersticks were back home at Perth Hockey Stadium taking on Hockey Club Melbourne.
With the likes of Foster and Cambell Geddes out due to Burras commitments in Malaysia, Day and Mitton returned to the squad.
Despite a hot start between the Thundersticks and Hockey Club Melbourne, the visitors broke the deadlock late in the opening quarter.
Although the Thundersticks would respond with goals via Aran Zalewski and Day, Hockey Club Melbourne would fire away to a solid lead.
Despite exciting performances across the field, the Thundersticks were dismantled by Hockey Club Melbourne 6-2, putting their finals chances in jeopardy.
As the Thundersticks looked to bring themselves back from the brink, their next challenge was a trip to South Australia to take on the Adelaide Fire.
With a need to reinforce their defence and striking, Bryn De Bes & Frank Main were brought into the line-up, with Main making his Hockey One debut.
Still yet to score a field goal and conversion, the Thundersticks needed to find a way to get themselves on the board against the Fire.
Matt Willis was just the person, charging through Adelaide’s defence to score the Thundersticks’ first field goal of the 2023 season and successfully converting.
Although the Fire attempted to put the pressure on the Thundersticks, Day sealed the deal with a last minute penalty corner goal to seal the deal 3-0 to put their 2023 campaign back on track ahead of tough matches.
Despite having a clean sheet victory under their belt, the Thundersticks faced an uphill battle in their final home match of the season, going up against the NSW Pride, who had already secured their spot in the Finals Main Event.
Looking to provide reinforcements up forward, Brodee Foster and Trent Mitton were brought into the line-up.
However, the line-up would change just hours before the match with Frank Main coming in to replace Tim Geers, who was withdrawn due to illness.
While the contest was in a deadlock throughout the first half, the second half was when the Pride would kick into high gear, scoring three goals during the third quarter to build a solid lead.
Although Tom Wickham would find a way to score during the late stages of the match, it was not enough to topple the Pride, who went on to win 3-1.
It was do or die for the Thundersticks during round seven as they looked to scrape into the finals by the skin of their teeth.
However, they faced another uphill battle in the form of Brisbane Blaze.
As illness made its way through the Thundersticks camp, a number of changes were made to the line-up that travelled to Queensland, with Geers, Will Battistessa and Geddes coming in to replace James Collins, Liam Flynn and Wickham.
Alistair Murray was also brough into the line-up to provide back-up in defence.
Despite a quick start to the match, the Thundersticks were behind the eight-ball as the Blaze took control, scoring four goals before half time.
Although Day kept the Thundersticks from being held scoreless, it was not enough to earn themselves a spot in the finals as the Blaze went on to win 5-1.
As the Perth Thundersticks look forward to 2024, the team would like to thank all of the sponsors, members and supporters that have supported the team in 2023.