Dalefield celebrate winning their third Wellington Hockey Premiership. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Dalefield are the Wellington Premier Men’s Hockey champions.

A 2-1 win over defending champions Hutt United gave the Wairarapa-based club its third men’s championship in five years.

What made the victory over their fierce rivals even sweeter was that they did it without their influential player-coach Dane Lett, who is playing for the Black Sticks in a four-nation series in Japan.

Dalefield got off to the prefect start in the final played in bitterly cold conditions on a sodden National Hockey Stadium in Wellington.

A penalty corner in the first two minutes was converted by captain and player of the match Rowan Yeo to give the yellow and blacks the early advantage.

Dalefield controlled much of the early running, but they were struggling with their passes not being accurate enough, or trying for too much distance on the waterlogged pitch.

That opened the door for Hutt who scored with their first shot on goal 11 minutes in the second quarter to make it 1-1 at the halftime break.

Dalefield restored their advantage through Benedict van Woerkom.

A planned move from a penalty corner had van Woerkom deflect the ball into the cage near the end of the third quarter.

From then, the defence stepped up across the field and shut down the dangerous Hutt ball players. The defence was so effective that Hutt were restricted to only one penalty corner throughout the 70 minutes.

Both teams continued to battle in the difficult conditions, but it was Dalefield who coped better and with a focused defensive effort they were rarely threatened.

Co-manager Bernie Lett said it was a deserved win.

“We had the better of the game – even the Hutt guys said after the game that we were the better team.”

“It was an awesome team performance and every player played their part on the field.”

Lett also had some special words for two players, Josh Nelson and goalkeeper William Brown, who didn’t have any game time during the final.

“They played a big part in the win. They were awesome throughout the season and without their contribution we couldn’t have achieved what we have.”

As well as winning the championship, Dalefield also made a clean sweep of the goal-scoring awards. Dane Lett was the season’s top goal scorer with 16 goals, Yeo scored 15, and Zac Hardie netted 14 goals.

The Dalefield women also finished the season on a high, beating Victoria 3-0 to seal third.

Libby Noema scored in a goalmouth scramble in the first quarter, and Chloe Frederiksen added two goals for a deserved victory for the young side.

It was an outstanding finish to the season for Dalefield and coach Michael O’Connor. In February O’Connor was struggling for players and it looked like the team could fold.

However, the inclusion of several secondary school students along with some old heads saw them finish with a respectable third place, one place better than the team managed in 2018.

With third place sealed, their work wasn’t over. The women then donned men’s suits and adjourned to the pavilion to raucously cheer the men’s team to victory.