Men’s 4ths are Sydney Uni Hockey Club’s second Men’s Championship winners for 2017 after beating Ryde 2-0 in their PL4 Grand Final on Saturday 16 September.

It was a fast-paced and entertaining match, and much closer than the final score indicates. Sydney Uni Hockey Club (SUHC) scored a clever field goal mid-way through the first half, but our second goal came with only 16 seconds left on the clock, when Rowan McDonald slammed in a goal after another superb overhead ball from James Crabbe wrong-footed the Ryde defenders. 

Ryde dominated the field for the first minutes, but SUHC’s defence was rock-solid, and soon we were spending more than our share of time camped in the Ryde half. The evergreen running machine Jeff Stibbard, former SUHC Junior Josef Visser and crowd darling Matty Cudmore pressured the Ryde centres constantly, leading to regular opportunities for us as Ryde misdirected a number of their hurried hits. Our first goal flowed from some quick passing by Tugga and then some fast and skilful stepping and passing from Phil Price, and we seemed to have the match in our control from then on until well into the second half.  Bott, Tugga and Nappy might have the decades of experience and calmness, but the coolness of our younger players like Luke Turner, Nic Verbeek, Ryan Kelly, Max Loxton and James Green had to be admired as they calmly kept the pressure on a frustrated Ryde.

With only 15 minutes or so left in the match we had chance to cement control and extend our lead when we earned the first short corner of the game. Ryde held us out, and it seemed to shock them into stepping it up a gear. They did everything they could to draw level on the scoreboard. They began making inroads with almost every play, and their younger players seemed to find an extra yard of pace as they repeatedly ran the ball into our 22. Ryde even earned two short corners quick succession in the last 10 minutes and only some athletic and energetic keeping from SUHC’s Brad Kayani kept them scoreless.

Their pressure continued though, and one Ryde field shot even tipped the goalpost on the way past, but it was quickly cleared. Ryde had a few youngsters, but we had Nappy, Bott and Crabby, or own veritable tertiary institution. James Crabbe’s uncanny overheads were a godsend as he turned defensive free-hits into exciting attacking opportunities (if only hockey had a 40-20 rule!) and earned us space, position and a rest for tired legs. The goal just on full time was a fair reward to Rowan Macdonald for his clever positioning, and James Crabbe for the heavenly passing.

It was a showcase match for SHA. SUHC’s 4ths were playing Ryde’s 4ths, which was a good reflection of the depth being maintained in Sydney’s best clubs. It was a great game for the spectators (especially SUHC’s fans), it was played with great sportsmanship from both sides (absolutley full credit to Ryde), and it was fairly and consistently umpired (thanks to Harry Cole and Colin Skyba).  There was a considerable crowd for SHA’s Grand Final Day – and the enthusiastic drumming from the Bottlets added a carnival atmosphere.

Full team:

Mick Irby (Captain and Coach), Brad Kayani (Goal Keeper), Brian Gunner, Luke Turner, Jason Faulks, Nic Verbeek, James Green, Max Loxton, Jeff Stibbard, Rowan Macdonald, Matt Cudmore, Josef Visser, Phil Price, James Crabbe, Ryan Kelly and Kirk Lewis.