Hunter Coast hockey: Gosford strike late to down Norths in grand final

Gosford’s Lain Carr cracked a staunch Norths defence with five minutes left on Sunday to give the Magpies three Hunter Coast Men’s Premier Hockey League grand final wins over the Blues in the past four seasons.

Carr lunged to get the vital touch on a Lee Cormack ball in the 65th minute to give Gosford a 1-0 victory and the premiership double at Newcastle International Hockey Centre, Broadmeadow.

It continued Gosford’s recent dominance of the competition after grand final wins in 2015 and 2017. Norths, appearing a ninth consecutive decider on Sunday, prevailed in 2016.

After a 5-0 major semi-final loss to Gosford two weeks ago, Norths responded with a far better performance. Both teams had shots blocked but Gosford went closest late in the first half when they hit the post off a penalty corner. 

Dane Pettitt hit the side of goals with a tomahawk strike in what was Norths’ best chance but Gosford found the target soon after in the 63rd minute. Geoff McGuire chipped goalkeeper Eamon Smith but the whistle had blown against Gosford for dangerous play. Their frustration was shortlived.

Gosford coach Gordon Cracknell believed his side deserved the win.

“They were set up to stifle our attacking style and they did that for long periods, but we persevered, we were relentless and I think we got our just reward at the end,” Cracknell said. “It was a game of few chances. It wasn’t a great hockey match, which was a shame for everyone who came to watch, but ultimately it was tactical affair and we came out on top.”

Gosford were missing league equal top scorer Rhiley Carr and Norths were without keeper Shaun O'Brien after both were banned for their roles in a brawl during the teams’ second-round clash.

Frustrations and tensions were high at times on Sunday, but only one yellow card per team and two green cards to Gosford were issued. 

“It was a good, hard-fought game and today it was all about hockey,” Cracknell said. “Hockey was the winner.”

Norths young gun Ky Willott was named man of the match. Coach David Willott was proud of an “outstanding team effort”.

“We really aimed up and we stuck it to them,” Willott said. “I thought we had them under pressure in periods but they got that goal and sometimes that’s all it takes.”

In the women’s premier league, Oxfords beat Tigers 4-3 on Saturday in a shootout, after a scoreless game, to make the grand final against Avoca.

Willott added: “Full credit to them, they are a quality team and they will be for a few years to come. There will be some good battles to come.

“We frustrated them and put them in positions they weren’t used to being in.

“They got Ky a couple of times and they got cards from it, just because of the speed of him getting on the outside.

“It was good. It was an enjoyable game. It was just disappointing to get so close and lose, and I believe we had some good chances to possibly win.”

At the post-match presentation, Gosford’s Stuart Fletcher and Maitland’s Matt Magann were named joint player of the year. Rhiley Carr and Norths’ Rory Walker were top scorers with 25 goals each.