WA DIAMONDS UPDATE – PRE GRAND FINAL 2013
It’s been a hard 4 days for the WA Diamonds after the promising start to the 2013 AHL campaign, with wins against Tasmania and Victoria cementing our position in the top 4 to play off for finals. In order to give us the best chance to make the grand final a win against talented and in form ACT was required. With quality players including Hockeyroo Eddie Bone and NZ national player Samantha Charlton this would be no easy feat with Diamonds star Kobie McGurk and captain Shelly Liddelow sidelined. It was a game of defence and admittedly it was not a pretty spectacle to watch with Diamonds absorbing large amounts pressure in the defensive 25. Fortunately a quick breakaway allowed Ollie Chiu to exploit ACT’s high defense and create a one on one with the ACT goalie resulting in a back stick goal putting Diamonds on the scoreboard. ACT continued to push knowing the importance of a win going into the final rounds, however the Diamonds fortress stood strong and scraped through with a win and the all important 3 points.
WA then took on Queensland Scorchers in the first round of the finals. At a balmy 8 degrees with the forecast of snow, it was actually enjoyable running to stay moderately warm. It was an equal battle with both teams having ample opportunity to score however could not convert. Queensland Madonna Blyth worked hard in the midfield, however there was a noticeable absence due to injury in the QLD team; experienced campaigner Teneal Attard. WA goalkeeper Ashlee Wells had a sensational game in the net, keeping QLD’s drag flicking threats Jodie Schulz and Maddie Fitzpatrick at bay. Scores were level at half time however shortly after the midterm break a scramble at the top of the circle created an opportunity for Jordyn Holzberger who fired it at the net. Despite Ashlee Wells making a great initial save, quick reflexes from Stephanie Kershaw on the baseline resulted in ball being sent back over the goalie and into the goal.
In true WA style, Diamonds continued to attack and tried to level the scores however shots were hard to come by with a flooded QLD defence. Despite a solid performance QLD came out victors meaning WA would be required to beat NSW in the final game.
The rest day was warmly received by the players until a trip to Tasmania’s Long Beach was on the cards. Standing in water fresh from Antarctica certainly prompted many of the girls to complain loudly in pain. Katy Symonds was not one to shy away from the water accepting the challenge from her team mate Jodie Searle to swim out to the pontoon and back, to be rewarded with her fines debt being cleared (which was a significant amount of money). Thankfully Katy made it, as there were no further takers to get deeper into the water if she required assistance. Jayde Taylor also assisted in team recovery by bringing her attributes as a Thermomix consultant (slight plug here) to the forefront, whipping up risotto and salad for 26 people in only 2 hours! It was a smart move, as not only did she help the athlete’s carbo load but sold 26 Thermomix’s at once.
Above: Icy recovery at Long Beach.
Diamonds took on the NSW Arrows in the final game to determine who would reach the grand final. Arrows were undermanned with key player Casey Eastham sidelined due to a persistent hamstring injury, aggravated in the previous game. NSW got off to a strong start and converted first, scoring a goal on the back post from a penalty corner. WA continued to press well and created opportunities however had difficulty finishing off. A hard ball into the circle from Penny Squibb took a deflection off NSW goalkeeper Jocelyn Bartram foot and into the net resulting in a timely home goal in WA’s favour. At the half time period scores were level at one all. A draw would not be good enough to get WA into the final and therefore the scene was set for a competitive second half. WA controlled the midfield from the outset and was rewarded with a short corner allowing Jemma Buckley to score from a slap hit. Being 2-1 up it was imperative that WA held onto this lead in order to progress to the grand final. Much to NSW’s credit they did not give up and with 9 minutes to go they created a penalty corner opportunity. A push out to Jade Close who trapped upright, took it into the circle and sweetly hit the ball into the bottom left of the goal. As many athletes would know seeing this unfold would be highly disappointing with only minutes on the clock to find the back of the net again. In typical Diamonds fashion the team remained composed and gave one last ditch effort, resulting in mumma bear of the team Shayni Nelson finding the foot of a NSW defender in the circle forcing a short corner. Executing the set skills under high pressure was required and WA looked to Jemma Buckley to slap the ball from the top of the circle again. Ashleigh Nelson managed to get hold of the ball on the right post and slip it past the NSW defence to score the final goal of the game allowing WA to progress to the final game of the tournament.
It would have been a bittersweet experience for NSW who played well throughout the game only to miss out on progressing to the final in the last minute of the game. Given that they are a young side I have no doubt their time will come in the ensuing years. Today WA face the strong QLD unit who overcame ACT in the following game (1 – 0) to cement their place in the grand final. A goal to drag flicking specialist Jodie Schulz assisted QLD in getting the much-needed 3 points. QLD and WA have significant history with many of the past grand finals being between the two teams. With QLD only winning 1 nil in the previous game, winning the grand final is anybody’s for the taking.