Brave David topples Goliath

SUTHERLAND men’s hockey team earned a celebratory guard of honour from raucus past and present players after they produced a superb performance to win back-to-back Sydney premierships on Saturday night.
Nanjing Night Net

In a rugged display which the Australian Olympic hockey team would have been proud of, a nine-man Sutherland team — a team with all Sutherland local juniors — just managed to hold off hot favourites Moorebank Liverpool to win 2-1 at Olympic Park, Homebush.

‘‘That was right up there with the best,’’ said a proud coach Peter Tait, after congratulating his players.

What Sutherland had to endure against a team, unbeaten all season, was quite mind-boggling. And there was no better player than goalkeeper Blake Sanford, whose skill and courage saw him stop a barrage of goal shots in the dying minutes.

Sanford, an Illawong junior, state and national indoor representative, wasn’t going to play this year because his job as a trucking company employee had him working 80-100 hours some weeks.

‘‘We had to work hard to get him back, halfway through the season,’’ said coach Tait.

Both teams were locked 1-1 at half-time, after goals to Moorebank’s Jordan Willot and then Shayne Smith, whose goal off a hit from Matt Phillips from a short corner near the break brought the noisy Sutherland supporters to life.

Both sides then played controlled hockey, with defensive patterns controlling any mini-breaks in play.

However, with 12 minutes to play, Sutherland made a more dramatic break and Cameron Buesnel suddenly found himself in space off a deflection, and rifled his shot from right of the circle — and past the despairing Moorebank goalie.

The game suddenly hotted up. A controversial send-off of goalscorer and dual hockey-cricket representative, Shayne Smith, reduced Sutherland to 10 men. And Moorebank dropped their goalkeeper in favour of a 12th field player as they attacked to make up the leeway.

With two minutes remaining, Sutherland was reduced to nine men when they lost fullback and inspirational captain, Matt Phillips, to a yellow card.

Moorebank, stacking numbers around the Sutherland goal, was awarded a penalty and three short corners.

Each time Sanford somehow got an arm, leg or another part of his body in front of the ball, and his team-mates did the rest.

Sanford accepted the man-of-the-match award but he seemed in another world.

‘‘Blake was physically and emotionally exhausted,’’ said coach Tait. ‘‘Simply, we wouldn’t have got this far, or won this game, without him.’’

■Sutherland’s women’s team won the Easter District first grade grand final — their fourth straight grand final. The lone goal was created by great team-work and finished off superbly by Katie Hammond, bamboozling three defenders. Co-captain Hammond was named player of the grand final.

2012 PREMIERSMatt Phillips (c), Blake Sanford, Dave Collins, Mitch Wray, Matt Johnson, Rhys Bobyk, Josh Walters, Shayne Smith, Nathan Bourke, Cameron Buesnel, Matt Bennett, Ralph Prince, Blake Sharp, Gavin Bobyk, Mitch Pearson (standby goalie).

Against the odds: Sutherland celebrate their second premiership in a row, with goalie and man-of-the-match Blake Sanford (second from left). Pictures: John Veage

Jumping for joy: Sutherland players and officials enjoy the win.

Captain courageous: Matt Phillips

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