Northern United 2
Farriers Dalefield held their nerve in a frantic final five minutes to seal a memorable fifth championship trophy in eight seasons.
Dalefield took the lead in the first quarter in Saturday’s Wellington Premier Championship decider at the National Hockey Stadium [NHS] through Maddie Taylor from a penalty corner [PC].
Final MVP Reese Robertson then doubled the lead with a field goal in the second quarter. The third quarter was scoreless before Northern United eventually found a way through the stubborn Dalefield defence early in the fourth period.
A scrambled goal to Alana Rowe restored Dalefield’s two-goal advantage, but Northern weren’t to be denied and closed the gap to 3–2 with five minutes to play, leading to an onslaught from Northern, who were desperate to complete an unbeaten season.
Dalefield co-coach Mike O’Connor reckoned that Northern threw everything but the kitchen sink at them.
“The heart was pumping away, people were yelling, and the crowd was going nuts, and it was bloody good,” O’Connor said.
“The last five minutes,
we might have got out of our half once or twice, but the rest of it, they were just going for it. The girls just knuckled down and stopped everything they could. It was just self-belief that they could do it and that never-give-up attitude. It’s been like that since 2016.”
Captain Michael O’Connor, Katherine Reisima, and Brigitte Mossman [who missed much of the season through pregnancy] have been there for all of the titles as well as Mike O’Connor, a former Wai-Bush rugby representative, who, along with wife and manager Karen O’Connor has done an outstanding job instilling the players with the belief to succeed.
“I’ve been lucky to have senior players in the team each year that help with the technical and structural stuff of it.
“I guess I’m more about trying to get them to realise how hard they can work and believe in themselves,” said Mike O’Connor, who is unsure whether he’ll pick up the coaching reins next year.
Hutt United 7
A Hutt United goal in the first minute from a Dalefield turnover set the tone for a bizarre high-scoring Wellington Premier Men’s Championship final at the NHS.
Hutt were soon up 2–0 before Marcus Ambrose scored from a counterattack, and Black Stick Dane Lett converted with a drag flick from a PC to make it 2–2 at the end of the first quarter.
Ambrose then put Dalefield 3–2 ahead, only for Hutt to respond with two quick goals to lead 4–3 at halftime.
Hutt went up 5–3 shortly after the resumption of play before player-assistant coach Benedict van Woerkom got a deflection on a PC drag flick for a 4–5 scoreline at three-quarter time.
Hutt then scored in the first minute of the final period to go 6–4, van Woerkom closed the gap to one with a brilliant individual goal, but Hutt restored their two-goal cushion, which they held to the end.
Although Dalefield peppered the Hutt defence towards the end and had a couple of chances, they couldn’t convert, leaving them to rue a below-par effort.
“It was one of those games where we’d win the ball from a good press, we would break out and throw it straight back to them, or we’d duff a pass, and they would intercept and run it back at us,” van Woerkom said.
“Our connections were just a touch off, and it seemed like every time they got into the circle, they got something. We defended quite poorly in our back third, and we conceded some soft goals.”
Van Woerkom said Hutt had a game plan to shut down Dalefield’s attacking threats, himself and captain Rowan Yeo, and it worked effectively, although he added Dalefield also missed the attacking talents of Alex Sumenko-Bucknell and Zac Hardie, who were both injured.
“It was just a combination of things, and it just meant it wasn’t to be our day.”