“THAT was very, very nice - you can’t ask for much better than that can you?”
Those were the words of St Pat’s coach Bec Clayton after her side came from a goal down to beat Lithgow Panthers 2-1 in Saturday’s women’s Premier League Hockey grand final at Bob Roach Field.
It was a very nervous Clayton who watched on as the Panthers dominated the first half and took the lead when Bree Pyne found the mark.
But by half-time her Saints were back on level terms with the defending premiers thanks to a powerful Esther Hotham tomahawk and it was the same player who scored the winner with 11 minutes to go.
For those final 11 minutes the Saints held on grimly to claim their sixth Premier League Hockey crown and first since 2009.
“I was worried just because we weren’t playing well, not because I didn’t think that we could come back,” Clayton admitted.
“We just couldn’t get the ball to our own sticks. We weren’t supporting the player with the ball. All those things we did well two weeks ago we weren’t doing so well today. Still, I couldn’t fault how hard the girls were trying and their hunger to win today was just so evident - that’s what got us back in it.”
While the Panthers were unable to make it back-to-back premierships, they did not make the trip home empty-handed. Abby Wilson was named best and fairest while Roxsanne Van Veen scored more goals than any other player in the 2013 women’s competition.
“We did the hard yards but just couldn’t get there today,” Panthers skipper Amanda Saladine said.
“We had about 19 or 20 players all season who contributed to our side and got us as far as we did this season, we are just sorry we couldn’t get the job done today.”
After claiming the minor premiership but missing a direct path to the decider after a 3-0 major semi-final loss to Pat’s, it was evident the Panthers had come to Bathurst intent on gaining revenge.
With just three minutes of the game gone, Pat’s goalkeeper Karen Fieldus was forced to make a brilliant one-on-one save to deny Wilson and shortly after she got a glove to a Van Veen bullet to keep it at nil-all.
Pat’s midfielder Carly Sandry cleared another attempt off the line as Panthers tried to capitalise from a Van Veen raid.
Fieldus made another class block to deny Tiffany Northey and saved Pat’s when Panthers earned their first penalty corner, but finally weight of possession told.
Pyne blasted a penalty corner straight into the net. It was Panthers’ sixth shot of the match and gave her side a 1-0 lead.
However, the Saints finally seemed to settle in the run to half-time and, with just over seven minutes left until the break, Hotham’s reverse stick effort flew into the top of the net to square the ledger.
With 11 minutes left the match winner came after Pat’s drew their fifth penalty corner of the match. The ball was laid off to Hotham on the left and she sent it thudding into the backboard.