A goal by Noel French in the 12th minute was enough for Australia to win the Gold Medal at the WGMA World Cup in Newcastle. Noel was also the hero of the very tense penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands in Tuesday's semi-final.
The semi -final had been a trial of nerves in a match that became more difficult as the Dutch maintained mid-field superiority for most of the game and we conceded a goal late to send the tech bench officials to find the penalty shoot-out forms. After the first set of five attempts, the score was tied at 3-3 and we the advanced to the final when Noel scored in the first sudden death round and Peter Neagle forced the Dutch Captain to go wide of the net.
The Gold medal match was a very tight affair with neither side being able to break their opponent's defensive lines. Neagle and Spiden both made excellent saves while Chay, Jervis and Lovell were at their best. Denis Lovell's performance was superb - he trapped every ball that came his way (often under close pressure from the opposition) and his clearance hitting continually turned the English around and sent them the scurrying back into the depths of their own half of the field.
As the seconds ticked away, the elusive second goal seemed unreachable and we tried to run down the clock during the final three minutes by holding the ball in the bottom corner of the English half. As sometimes happens, this approach can be frightfully difficult and with just over minute left we lost control and allowed the English to mount a final attack. They moved the ball swiftly down the right, switched to then left and into the circle. The shot on goal was saved but the ball went to another attacker whose waist-high shot looked in until Rod Dyson made a brilliant save on the goal line. Long corner. Denis Lovell gained possession and with 12 seconds left hit the ball into the other end of the field.
The Gold Medal was the perfect reward for our entire team and particularly for our coach Bob Claxton, whose approach, preparation and guidance was of the highest level. Also, our Manager Ric Roberts and Sports Trainer Peter Evison played a very significant part in the team's success. Their dedication and professional approach made a difference!
"And send him many years of sunshine days" (1) - so that we may play international hockey in the Sun.
There's (almost) nothing quite like playing hockey at the highest level in brilliant Aussie sunshine. Our team is playing better each day we emerge from the change room and onto another sunny pitch. I am sure that The Coach is pleased with our progress - four matches and four wins.
England 2-1; Japan 3-1, Scotland 11-0 and England 2-1.
Japan was expected to be mobile and to cause us a few problems, but being 3-0 up after 17 minutes probably made us think again! Goals from Thompson, Northwood and Chay set us on the road to victory. However, despite a large glut of possession during the second, third and fourth quarters, we were unable to score another goal, while the plucky Japanese scored a goal that gave them much encouragement.
Saturday's match against Scotland was expected to be easier than our previous matches and we set a target of 8 goals in order to establish our dominance at the top of the table. Despite a positive start, we took some time to give the tech bench something to record - one goal by quarter time was a passable effort, and we all knew that we had to lift our concentration and momentum.
The structure was working well and the second quarter saw two more goals, including a special solo effort by David Peebles, in which he beat at least five defenders before slotting the ball into the net.
The second half was something of an avalanche with 8 goals - Noel French on fire with four superbly skilful finishes. Dale Thompson and Ray Northwood also added to their growing tally of goals in this World Cup. Several spectators was overheard saying that the high strikers looked like they were doing interval training with the numerous "sprints" from the goal mouth to the half way line for each Scotland hit off.
The second meeting with England was merely a friendly match to ensure that we both played four matches before the play-offs began, to equalise the number of matches played with those in pool A. The outcome was the same as the match on day one - 2-1 to us. There were no points at stake.
Tomorrow is semi finals day - we play The Netherlands and NZ plays England.
Brilliant sunshine, a blustery westerly breeze, a wonderful Welcome to Country Ceremony and superb performances from the indigenous dancers and Didgeridoo players from Callaghan College and the National Anthem sung by Waratah Primary School were very memorable features of the Opening Ceremony of the 8th WGMA Grand Masters World Cup, in Newcastle yesterday.