Oxfords have been crowned Newcastle District Women’s Hockey Premier League champions for 2019, after defeating Souths 1-nil at the International Hockey Centre in a narrow grand final battle on Saturday afternoon.
The Bar TV-televised clash opened with a rapid-fire period of play, as both Souths and Oxfords began their battle for the premiership. The first quarter was end-to-end, with both sides constructing chances, but neither could put them away.
A run-in with Caitlan Duck and Phoebe Bloink-Hollier in the 13th minute of the match saw both strikers sent to the bench for two minutes for green cards.
The second quarter saw the scoreline finally broken open, with the Oxfords claiming their tenuous one-goal lead. Oxford’s striker Bloink-Hollier – back from her green card – crossed a bullet shot to Kim Tuckwell, who fired it into the back of the net.
Souths had their chance to equalise soon after in the third quarter, and were awarded a penalty corner after the ball hit an Oxfords player’s foot in the circle. Jasmine Etheridge denied the chance, however, and maintained her side’s lead.
South’s Neeva Williams was benched in the dying moments of the third quarter with a green card, allegedly dolled out for back-chat before Souths almost equalised again with a second close miss from another penalty corner.
The final quarter saw opportunities at goal for both sides arise, however, neither team could find the back of the net.
Neeva Williams received her second card in the 51st minute of the game, after a tackle with an Oxford defender saw some pushing and shoving from the striker. Souths fell to 10 players with just eight minutes to go.
Souths kept the majority of the final play in front of the Oxfords goal, but Oxford managed to defend the side and deny them any goals to secure the win.
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Oxfords coach Thea O’Sullivan said after the match that it was a fantastic send-off for retiring Olympic champion Kim Tuckwell, who had claimed the only goal to be scored in the grand final decider.
“It’s Kim’s last game, she tells us,” O’Sullivan told the Herald after the match. “She played today with two pretty ordinary hamstrings, but she just wanted to go out there and give it her all in her last game.”
“The older heads on our team were able to keep them composed a bit more than Souths were, but we really took it to them,” she added. “We spoke before the game about having courage to get loose balls, making tackles, and doing it for each other.”
Player of the Match was awarded to Oxford midfielder star Ellen Seaniger.