The fifth day of the Nutragrow Australian National Championships featured the last five finals and in the end New South Wales won three of them. They claimed the Junior Open, the Senior Mixed and the Senior Men but lost the Senior Women’s final to a strong Western Australia team and the Under 21 Mixed to Queensland.
The Under 21 Mixed was the first final of the day and early on it was very even, being 7 all going into the third. The Queensland girls pushed their team into a 9-8 lead in the third with good play from Christie Edwards and Sam Franklin. The NSW boys came back in the 4th early on to lead 10-9 but then Queensland came back and surpassed them to lead 12-10 at the end of it. The Queensland girls kept the lead in the 5th at15-13, despite a fall by their number 3 Jade Collins, who fell after Sydnee Doolan of NSW tackled her particularly hard, so hard in fact that Sydnee managed to take her own hat peak off with the swing. In the sixth the Queensland boys added another goal to the lead, thanks to some good play from Brendon Schnitzerling, who had a good game up front for Queensland. At this point it seemed that the game might be slipping away from NSW and going into the last they were 21-18 down, after Sam Franklin pulled out a good chukka in the 7th, stopping NSW scoring quickly. However NSW made a change, bringing on Lachlan Snowdon at number 3 for the men in the 8th and it seemed to do the trick. They outscored Queensland in the last and were just one goal down as the hooter sounded. Ultimately the final score of 24-23 was a fair result though, Queensland were the better team overall and deserved their victory.
With one defeat already today the NSW Junior team seemed determined to not let it happen to them as well as they took on Northern Territory. The Territory were the underdogs of this contest, being the much smaller state and having lost 19-15 when the two teams met in the group. Early on it seemed like NSW might inflict a far worse defeat on them today as Jim Grills and Mitchell Whiteley at 1 and 3 in the 1st chukka came out with all guns firing to win it 7-1. However, then out came the Territory’s second section with features the very talented Braydon Beck at number 1 and with very good support from Rosie Stweart Boon at 2 and John Piening at 3 he pulled it back to 7-5. However the Territory’s first section just could not deal with Whiteley and Grills (who represented Australia in the Juniors last year) and they made it 15-7 at the end of the 3rd. Then NSW second section of Jack Davidge, Tyler Mortimer and Jeremy Grills seemed to deal with the Territory better and at the end of the fourth it was 16-9 and the Territory hopes were fading. Grills and Whiteley came out again in the 5th and and made it 21-11, and both the NT goals were free goals for bad swings. Now it looked like only a miracle could pull the Territory back into it but Beck, Stewart-Boon and Piening were not going to go down without a fight and won the 5th chukka 3-0 to make it 21-14. Up until this point Jack Cooper, who has been on fire in the other NT number 1 shirt this week had had a quiet game but finally in the 7th chukka he found his goal scoring form and with Joseph Hazelbane and Jake Burgdorf winning ball they put together 3 early goals to give their supporters (of who there were a lot as everyone loves an underdog) hope. However they could not silence the NSW machine and ultimately the chukka ended up 5-4 in NT favour. That meant the Territory needed 6 goals in the last chukka to level it up but they were the team on a roll and it did almost seem possible. It started to seem very possible as Beck grabbed a number of balls and scored 4 quick, and very good, goals to put them back within two. However then NSW did what they needed to do, they won ball through their number 2 in Farann Mathie and she slowed the game down and made NT chase her. She did this twice to produce 2 goals and in doing so used up all the last chukka to make the end score 27-23. This was a right result in the end, it would have been unfair on the talent shown by the NSW players throughout for them to lose and the Northern Territory players can hold their heads high in the knowledge that they were almost the equals of a team who have over double the number of years of playing experience that they do (59 years of playing experienced compared to 26). Three of the Northern Territory players, John Piening, Rupert Trembath and Joseph Hazelbane, have only been playing for a couple of years and so to make their way to the Nationals final is an amazing result for them and they will learn a lot from it.
The Senior mixed final was an absolutely thriller between NSW and Queensland again. Queensland seemed to have the measure of NSW early on and by the third had built themselves a 10-7 lead, with Abigail Vaughan having a great performance at number 1 for the ladies. However, the NSW men responded well in the fourth and put their team 12-11 up. Vaughan came out again firing in the 5th and linked up well again with Jackie Sargood at number 3 to put Queensland back ahead 14-13. Then in the fifth NSW men again came out and reclaimed the lead, with Bernie Smith moving from number 3 to number 1 and outscoring John Bowling of Queensland 3-2 to put NSW 17-16 ahead. In the 7th the Queensland ladies again won but this time Abigail Vaughan’s horse looked tired and Belinda Tralinton, who moved into the number 3 shirt for NSW, really got hold of her a couple of times and slowed her right down. Going into the last it was all tied up at 19 all but this time the Queensland men seemed to have found their form and they went up by 3 goals. Then luck swung back NSW way and with Bernie Smith back at 3 and Jeremy Thurkle at 1 they recovered and scored 1 and also got awarded a free goals for a hit on the head. As it was so close people did try anything to get an advantage and Cam Taylor, the Queensland 3, got his comeuppance after he rode the length of the pitch elbowing Thurkle in the ribs, Thurkle checked up suddenly and Taylor shot forwards and almost fell off his horse. Thurkle meanwhile cut inside, took the pass off Bernie Smith and scored to make it 22 all. Soon after this the hooter sounded and out came the ladies again for overtime. It didn’t last longer as straight out of the line out Belinda Tarlinton grabbed the ball for NSW, rode to the 30 yard line and passed it to Rachel Hogden in the number 1 shirt to finish off the job and make NSW the Senior Mixed champions.
In the Senior Women and in the Senior Men NSW took on Western Australia and in the end the honours were even at one win each. WA were the favourites to win the ladies, they had beaten NSW earlier in the week and looked on paper the slightly stronger side. However, it was NSW who started the better with Alison Mathie and Sandra Weston linking well to win the first chukka 3-1. Then out came the Western Australia second section with the very experienced Jane Cooper and Trish Jones in it and young Lizzie Lyster at number 1. They put in a 6-1 chukka to put WA ahead 7-4. NSW first section again started the third chukka well but WA had reshuffled to put Suzette Thomas back from number 2 to number 3 and this seemed to work towards the end of the chukka. NSW went ahead 8-7 but then WA hit back to lead 10-8. From then on WA never really looked like losing it with Lyster and Cooper, in particular, on blistering form for WA and the threat of the NSW first section seeming to diminish as Jodi Tiver found her form at number 1 for WA and Sandra Weston losing her way slightly. Leanne Polglasse came on as a number 1 for NSW in the 4th chukka and she seemed on good form, scoring a couple of very good goals in the last chukka, However, none of the NSW number 1’s could hold a candle to Lyster who barely missed a ball or a chance all game. In the end WA won by 28-21 and NSW can have few complaints.
This result though definitely seemed to fire up the NSW men and in the end they beat the WA men 32-22, an incredible 54 goals in 48 minutes. The first NSW section featured the brothers Chris and Lance Anderson at number 3 and number 1 respectively and they put on an amazing display of how to play polocrosse. Chris won so much ball out the back with some superb pick ups and then linked up so well with Lance, who could just not be stopped from scoring from all angles. The only bad moment for him came in the 3rd chukka when he missed two goals and WA won that chukka 3-2, it was to be the only chukka they won all game despite the good work of Rob Sibley at number 1 when he had the ball. He took nearly every chance he had but he just did not have enough chances against the Andersons. In the other section for NSW Will Weston won a lot of ball as well as the number 3, mainly by just extending a long arm in the line up and pulling it down. He was beaten out the back a few times by young Jared Martin of WA, who looks a very good young player at just 20 years old, but today he just did not have the experience to deal with Weston who linked up well with his number 1 in Abbot Grills and Brad Warmsley to heap the misery on WA.
So the Australian National Championships have ended for another 2 years and the next one will be at Morgan Park in Warwick (the venue of the last 2 Polocrosse World Cups) on the 23rd to 29th of April 2012. Ballarat 2010 has mainly been a victory for the light blue of NSW, they featured in every final and won 6 of them. Queensland did well, claiming three finals off them, having featured in 5 finals. WA won just 1 final from the 3 they appeared in and they will probably be disappointed not to have won more. Victoria didn’t have the greatest home Nationals and struggled to win games, however they did make the Under 24 Women final and put up a good fight against NSW. Of the smaller states Northern Territory were probably the biggest winners, all three of their teams showed fight and some good polocrosse throughout the Championships and their appearance and display in the Junior Open final shows that there is a great deal of potential for the future.