STATEWIDE PRIDE: Livermore leads NSW to historic title win
HOCKEY ONE: Grafton's Brent Livermore has etched his name into history after leading the NSW Pride to the inaugural Sultana Bran Hockey One title at the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Melbourne on Saturday.
NSW Pride ran rampant on an exciting grand final day, defeating Brisbane Blaze 8-3 to cap off a remarkable undefeated season and claim the state's first national men's hockey title since 2005.
Tim Brand scored a first half hat-trick to set the Pride on their way before they piled on five goals in the last quarter to stamp themselves into the history books as the first winners of the competition.
The match started at a frenetic pace with NSW Pride winning a penalty corner inside the opening 90 seconds but Blaze goalkeeper Mitch Nicholson made a fine save low to his right as the Pride fired an early warning shot.
After successfully defending one, the Blaze then capitalised on their first penalty corner, Joel Rintala hammering his drag flick into the bottom left corner to open the scoring.
But the lead lasted barely two minutes as Tim Brand found himself unmarked in the attacking circle and produced a quality finish, giving Nicholson no chance. The striker then stepped up and successfully slotted home the bonus conversion opportunity and it was 2-1 to the Pride.
On the stroke of half time a well-worked move from the Pride found Tom Craig on the left and his cross found the stick of Brand, the ball managing to find its way through a crowded goal area and into the net.
But this time, Brand failed with his conversion opportunity to leave the Pride with an advantage at the main interval.
A yellow card to Lachlan Sharp left NSW a player short and with seconds left in the third quarter Corey Weyer had a golden chance for the Blaze but Ash Thomas produced a sharp reflex save from close range to maintain the two-goal margin.
Early in the last quarter the Pride made Weyer and the Blaze pay when the ball found its way to Jack Hayes who clinically beat Nicholson. The Pride midfielder converted the bonus one-on-one opportunity to make it 5-1.
The score then blew out to 7-1 when Flynn Ogilvie scored his own quick-fire double with under six minutes to play.
Weyer cut the deficit to four goals when he struck from open play and made the conversion, but it would not spoil the NSW Pride party as Kurt Lovett iced the cake in the final minute to round off the celebrations.
Reflecting on what the NSW Pride had achieved across the season, head coach Brent Livermore was full of praise for his playing group.
"They are a bunch of talented guys. I think what it showed is what happens when they pull together as a team and know what it takes to work for each other rather than a bunch of individuals,” Livermore said.
"We had a game plan that we worked with throughout the eight weeks and for the players to execute it and realise the importance of playing for their teammates was amazing. I think there were a lot of opportunities for both teams. Their (Brisbane's) radar was off a few times and our defence stood strong like it has for the whole campaign.
"The score did blow out and the result was probably a bit flattering but it was a tough battle and we just had to win our one-on-one contests and overcome them.”
Olgilvie, who was named best afield, tried to fittingly sum up what the Pride had achieved.
"It feels incredible. I think we kept building throughout the season, we set our structures and were really solid on them, and I think that was a big part of what got us through at the end,” Ogilvie said.
"In terms of achievements this is pretty big. I've played in the old Australian Hockey League for seven years and didn't get a chance to win one, so to win it now is amazing and great for New South Wales.”
Brisbane Blaze were the inaugural women's winners, beating Melbourne 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out.