An upset win over Bathurst in a grand final, missing shoes, and players going from never winning in Orange colours to Men’s Masters State Champions in a single weekend – the men’s over 40s side’s journey had it all.
Opening up the tournament with a 1-3 loss to Bathurst, but defender Scott Baker said the side were still “buoyant” after the game.”
“First game of the round and we where all getting to find how and where we play together,” he said.
“A few ex-Orange players residing in Sydney and Queensland in the team meant we can’t train together, and the Bathurst outfit basically play together week in week out in the Bathurst competition.”
The side rebounded and gelled to beat Newcastle 3-0, which player Scott Baker said for some players was the first win in Orange colours in a number of years.
The third pool game for the side proved a challenge, with Baker and Masters rookie Adam Hurford both carded, which left the team defending a 1-0 lead two players down for the final minutes – holding on for a “gutsy” win.
The win meant the side only needed a win or a draw against Southern Highlands in the final pool game, with the subsequent 3-2 win giving it second place behind Bathurst.
However, waking the next morning, players were missing several pairs of shoes.
“We originally thought it was a team prank, but after a few hours of investigations it was found not to be a prank so I and a few players were off to the local hockey shop for some new wheels before the first final kicked off,” Baker said.
If anything, what was dubbed ‘shoegate’ sharpened the focus of the side for their game against Parkes, which was a “cracker”.
“The game was either teams’ for the taking and at fulltime a 2-2 final scoreline meant we were off to a shoot out,” Baker said.
The shoot-out finished with the sides both even after five shots, leading to sudden death.
“Sudden death took another 4 shoots before some amazing keeping skills from David Wynne, and some sharp penalties by the strikers, we prevailed with a victory, and off to the big show,” Baker said.
The grand final was a fairytale-script set-up, coming up against Bathurst: arch-rivals, and the only side in the competition that had knocked Orange off over the weekend.
Baker said the side played “good team hockey” in the tight game.
“To everyone’s amazement, we walked away over 40’s champions. Some of us had never won a game with Orange, let along being premiers,” he said.
“A whisper was heard about a fairly-tale, movie script in the waiting … playing through “shoegate”, and this is the first time since the dinosaurs roamed that Orange had beaten Bathurst and Parkes in a men’s championship.”
To top the win off, David Wynne, Rowan Baker and Scott Baker were picked for the NSW over 40s side for the second year in a row, with state debutant Quinton Anderson also picked in the side.
Orange also had the over 45s play at the tournament, with Tony Gaze and Dave Tully selected in the state squad for their competition, with the 40’s and 45’s state sides competing in Lismore and Ballina respectively in September.
The men’s 45’s got off to a cracking start with an opening 6-1 win over Macarther, and a tight 0-1 loss to Sydney after the first day.
A disappointing 1-3 loss on the second day meant they needed a big win in their final game against Tamworth to still make the finals, but it wasn’t to be.
A hard-fought 2-3 loss to Tamworth left the men with one win only for the weekend.
The boys played some great hockey for the weekend, and if a few final touches found the back of the net, the weekend would have looked vastly different, and they would could have easily been finals bound for Sunday.
“A great weekend was had by all in both teams. Special thanks to Peter Hanlon, Daryl Frost and Brian Gunner for their efforts before and during the weekend to make sure both teams were all sorted,” Baker said.