Gympie ladies state champions
GYMPIE Ladies' Masters hockey team one returned home victorious on Monday night, as the re-crowned Division Four Ladies' Masters State Champions after defeating Ipswich Two 3-2 in a nail-biting final at the State Hockey Centre at Colmslie.
Coach David Dixon said the poor weather during the previous week called for multiple changes to the draw, with a number of grass fields at the championships declared unplayable.
That resulted in Gympie playing all of its games on artificial turf, including the opening game of the tournament against Ipswich Two on the main turf arena.
"Gympie One finished at the top of Pool A, despite a slow start to championships with a nil-all draw in the opening game.
"Little did anyone know that these two teams would go on to contest the final two days later," Dixon said.
After the disappointing first result, some changes were made to the team's formation to better accommodate an artificial turf playing style.
"Any further losses of points due to draws or losses would potentially stop any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals," Dixon said.
Gympie clicked into gear that night with a 4-0 drubbing of Townsville Two, followed on day two by a 1-0 win over former champions Mount Isa after a conversion by Linda Dray in less than two minutes.
Dixon said the semi-final was never in doubt against Hervey Bay, even though the scoreline did not reflect the dominance of Gympie, which spent long periods in enemy territory and had numerous opportunities but failed to enhance the 1-0 result
"The final against Ipswich Two was a classic encounter between two very evenly matched teams," he said.
Gympie suffered a calamitous start to the game with a penalty corner inside two minutes.
From this corner, a Gympie defender broke the line early.
"In hockey rules, a break means that the offending player must go to the halfway line and not be replaced," he said.
The corner was taken again, only to see a second defender break and be lost for the penalty corner, which Ipswich took full advantage of and rocketed home the strike from the top of the circle.
Dixon said Gympie re-grouped quickly, with an equaliser from a corner inside 10 minutes to midfielder Cristelle Jones.
From then on, it was trench warfare between the two teams with no quarter given.
The match became physical with three green-card suspensions, due to hacking infringements and one Ipswich player had to be taken to hospital with an ankle that was broken in four places.
With 20 minutes left, a Gympie error in deep defence allowed an Ipswich player to intercept the ball inside the circle and beat the keeper to give Ipswich a 2-1 lead.
"With 15 minutes to go, the signs were not looking good for Gympie.
"Digging from their inner well of self belief and against the run of play, the equaliser came with 12 minutes left on the clock with a brief moment of magic courtesy of a long corner," Dixon said.
From the ensuing play, striker Di Dixon delivered a perfect pass and midfielder Tanya Grant scored squaring the game at 2-2.
With three minutes left on the clock, Cristelle Jones converted a game-saving second penalty corner to deliver the championship to Gympie.
Dixon described the comeback as the gutsiest performance that he had ever seen on a hockey field.
The story wasn't as sweet for second Gympie team in the competition, Gympie Two, led by Captain Carla Reinke and coach Geoff Huth.
The team entered the competition with limited preparation and a new playing group.
Dixon said Gympie Two did not have the luxury of playing on an artificial surface and poor weather had turned grass into a muddy bog.
"The determination and never-say-die attitude of the ladies was evident," Dixon said. Gympie Two finished the competition in equal third with Warwick.