Brisbane Blaze are the toast of Australian women’s hockey after winning a dramatic sudden death penalty shootout against Hockey Club Melbourne to be crowned the Sultana Bran Hockey One 2019 Women’s Champions.
The season’s showpiece event did not disappoint as it produced a titanic end to end contest that ended with the teams locked 1-1 after regulation time.
Goalkeeper Hannah Astbury was the hero for the Blaze, saving a penalty stroke from Madi Ratcliffe in the dying minutes and then being pivotal in the shootout.
In a first half dominated by staunch defence, both sides had a couple of decent chances but Astbury and HC Melbourne goalkeeper Rachael Lynch were both at the top of their games.
With the match evenly poised, Britt Wilkinson eventually broke the deadlock in the 37th minute and put the Blaze in front as she managed to beat Lynch with a shot from close range.
However Lynch saved Wilkinson’s bonus conversion attempt to keep the lead at one and six minutes later it was all square again as Florine van Grimbergen directed her drag flick perfectly.
As both teams went in search of a winner, Lynch produced another clutch save to deny an Ash Fey drag flick, before Astbury kept out Hayley Padget at the other end.
With under four minutes remaining HC Melbourne were awarded a penalty stroke but Ratcliffe’s attempt was sensationally saved by Astbury and the grand final would be decided by a penalty shootout.
The shootout was a heart stopper, and after being locked at 2-2 after five penalties each, it went to sudden death. Ratcliffe, who had taken the previous penalty and had it saved, missed again with HC Melbourne’s first sudden death attempt to allow player of the match Rosie Malone to step up and score past Lynch to give the Blaze the title.
“I’m relieved, excited and so very proud of these girls,” said triumphant Brisbane Blaze Head Coach Nikki Taylor.
“It’s a hard way to win (in a shootout) and obviously nerve racking but I had faith in the team they could do it and they did.”
“It could have gone either way. Astbury was magnificent…I had a feeling when she saved the penalty stroke that she was seeing the ball like a watermelon and in the shootout she was fantastic again.”
“Then for our attackers to handle the pressure and score when it was needed was exceptional.”
“I’m so happy that Brisbane Blaze are the inaugural women’s champions. This competition is a great concept for what they are trying to do for hockey in Australia and I think it’s only going to get bigger and better.”
“For us to be the first ones to have our name on that trophy is an extremely proud moment and something we’ll cherish.”
HC Melbourne 1 (2) (van Grimbergen 43’)
Brisbane Blaze 1 (3) (Wilkinson 37’)
Brisbane Blaze wins 3-2 on penalties
Saturday 16 November 2019
State Netball and Hockey Centre, Melbourne
HC Melbourne Women’s team: 1.Sophie Taylor, 2.Aisling Utri, 3.Nicola Hammond, 5.Kristina Bates, 7.Kary Chau, 12.Carly James, 14.Laura Barden, 20.Hayley Padget, 21.Florine van Grimbergen, 22.Madi Ratcliffe, 23.Samantha Snow (c), 25.Hannah Gravenall, 27.Rachael Lynch (GK), 33.Amy Lawton
Brisbane Blaze Women’s team: 1.Savannah Fitzpatrick, 2.Madison Fitzpatrick, 3.Layla Eleison, 4.Ashlea Fey, 5.Rosie Malone, 6.Morgan Gallagher, 7.Jodie Kenny (c), 8.Jordyn Holzberger, 9.Jesse Reid, 12.Kendra Fitzpatrick, 14.Meg Pearce, 15.Hannah Astbury (GK), 19.Morgan Mathison, 22.Britt Wilkinson