A fantastic crowd at the McMillan Hockey Centre in Ōtepoti Dunedin were treated to a spectacular final day at the Ford National Hockey Championship (NHC), the first association based national tournament in more than 25 years and the first major domestic tournament since 2020.
The day’s first final saw Southland take on North Harbour B in the Tier 2 Women’s division, as Southland looked to avenge an early loss to the northerners in pool play. Buoyed by local support, Southland got off to a flying start when Dayna Holland converted a penalty corner in the first minute of play.
Susan White scored just before half-time to make it 2-0 and despite a Harbour goal in the 44th minute, the deficit proved too much to overcome as Southland ran out deserved 2-1 winners to claim Tier 2 gold and the Floyd Shield for 2022.
In the Tier 2 bronze medal match, Counties Manukau defeated Tasman to cap off a successful tournament down South.
It was then Canterbury and Harbour’s turn to seek national glory in the 2022 Tier 1 Women’s final – a repeat of the 2019 National Hockey League final. Competing for the K Cup, both sides felt each other out in the early stages before Georgia Clement scored her first goal of the tournament in the 9th minute.
The lead for Harbour wouldn’t last long, however, as the mainlanders struck back in the next minute via a penalty corner. Then, in the second quarter, Jenna-Rae McIntyre scored her fourth and perhaps most critical goal of the tournament, as Canterbury seized a 2-1 lead which they would not relinquish.
Tier 1 Gold at the Ford NHC represents somewhat of a trifecta for Canterbury Women’s hockey in 2022 after the association won the Vantage U18 National Championship while Christchurch Girl’s High School claimed national school-girl honours at the Federation Cup.
Manawatu and Auckland couldn’t be separated at the end of regular time in the bronze medal game earlier in the afternoon, with the match heading to a shootout which Manawatu were able to seal. It’s a great story for the association who, just a short while ago, did not have a full team, a manager, or a coach for the tournament.
The crowd was at capacity for the next final of the day, as local hopefuls Otago took on pre-tournament favourites Wellington in the Tier 1 Men’s gold medal match. Both sides had a feeling of what to expect after playing each other in pool play just a day before – Otago winning that clash 1-0 with Wellington already having qualified to play for gold.
In the final, the sides couldn’t be separated in the first quarter as both teams created chances but couldn’t convert. The match then turned on its head in the second, as Otago scored 3 goals in 10 minutes to take a strong lead into the half-time break. Otago scored again in the third to make it 4-0 with 20 minutes to play.
A fightback was always on the cards for Wellington, with Graeme Murrell scoring two minutes later and captain Dane Lett scoring his third penalty corner goal of the tournament in the 54th minute to make it 4-2.
It proved too little, too late for the men from the capital, as the locals held on for an historic victory at home while chants of “Otago” rang through the crowd. It was the first time the Otago men have won a national title and the first for the association since the women did it in 1987.
Capping off a great tournament for Canterbury, their men’s A team claimed the Tier 1 Bronze medal after defeating Auckland, while their men’s B team, the infamous ‘Beavers,’ won Tier 2 honours.
That Tier 2 Men’s final capped off a fantastic week of the Ford National Hockey Championship in Ōtepoti Dunedin. The inaugural tournament, replacing the Ford NHL, saw 104 matches played between 35 teams and proved to be a celebration of community hockey in New Zealand.