After a one year and two week hiatus, Men's Masters Hockey made a comeback with the Over 34's and Over 65's taking the field for the 2021 State Championships on the Central Coast.
In an effort to further encourage players to compete in Masters tournaments, NSW Men's Masters decided to allow 34 year old players to compete, given they would be eligible for the Australian teams in 2022, if selected.
Sydney entered a team in the Over 34's, and based on their finishing fourth at the 2019 championships, went in with hopes of making the playoffs, against what promised to be some tough and talented opposition. With only 5 teams being entered in A Division, and players coming from first grade teams in Sydney, Newcastle and the Western conference, the standard of hockey promised to be high. And so it transpired.
Starting the championships with a match against Lithgow, Sydney took a while to find their rhythm, but then rattled in 8 goals in their first 50 minutes of hockey. Lithgow bagged a treble, but most concerning for Sydney was that two of those goals came in the last 4 minutes when they lost focus and relaxed. Something you cannot do against quality opposition.
An afternoon match against Metro South West side loaded with talent highlighted some deficiencies in Sydney's defence. A three goal half time deficit turned into a five goal deficit within 90 seconds of the second half starting. Handing the ball straight to former Kookaburra Glen Turner from a defensive 16 yard hit was always going to cause the fullbacks pain and was followed by a second a minute later. Sydney found themselves on the end of a 7-1 score line at the conclusion of the second 50 minutes of hockey.
Going into Day 2 with a one win, one loss record, Sydney had hopes of grabbing more points from their final two pool matches, but the richly talented Central Coast team settled into their game very early, and secured a 4-0 win over Sydney. Soon afterwards, Sydney was put under the pump with Lithgow grabbing a 2-1 victory over Metro South West. This combined with their 1-1 draw with Newcastle the evening before meant that Sydney had to get at least a draw from their final match against the defending champion Newcastle side to secure a place in the playoffs.
Determined to leave nothing in the tank in their final push to secure a place in the playoffs, Sydney put together a team effort worthy of a playoff spot. Newcastle's attacks were constantly thwarted and Sydney strung together cohesive attacking moves. Going into half time, neither team had managed to trouble the scorers. With 8 minutes remaining on the clock, Sydney's hopes were dashed when Newcastle capitalised on a scrappy baseline attack and prodded the ball into the open net to grab the only goal of the game. Officials and spectators praised the quality of the match, but with Newcastle taking all 3 points, Sydney were destined to miss the playoffs for the first time in a few years.
While the championships ended early for the team, their skipper Chris Coombes was rewarded for his efforts over the weekend by being named in the NSW Over 35's team for the Australian Championships in September. These championships are scheduled to be held at the newly renovated Newcastle Hockey complex. Congratulations Coombsey!
Ultimately, Central Coast went on to defeat Newcastle in the final and secure their first ever championship win in this age group. Congratulations to the hosts for their championship victory and also for hosting an excellent weekend of hockey.