Grand final winner off to national tournament
AFTER playing in Ipswich's most dramatic hockey grand final, Wests' captain Aaron Gotting celebrated a second success.
The highly regarded umpire has been called up for the Australian Hockey League championships starting in Perth on September 28.
Before focusing on his first national open tournament with the whistle, Gotting shared in Wests' Reserve Grade premiership at the Ipswich Hockey Complex on Saturday.
But the calm and collected Ipswich sportsman needed all his umpiring attributes after playing in his team's nailbiting 3-2 victory over Hancock Brothers.
The grand final had a thrilling, high pressure finish.
With 20 minutes left, Gotting left the field after copping a nasty blow. That came at the same crucial time teammate Christian Coulson-Futcher was off the field for a cardable offence in the game.
With two pivotal players sidelined, Wests had to dig deep to stay in the game, let alone hold on.
The Magpies did but only after a nerve-racking finale clinging to their 3-2 advantage.
With one second left, Hancocks were awarded a penalty corner and last-gasp chance to force the game into extra-time. The strike hit the crossbar of the net.
Gotting was among the relieved defenders after his team repelled Hancocks' late charge.
"We were 3-1 up and I felt pretty confident,'' Gotting said. "But when they got those two quick goals back, we started to dig deep and had to keep going all the way through.''
Wests finally secured their first premiership in a number of years after holding out the fast-finishing Hancocks attack. But Hancocks had multiple chances to force extra time.
That included a stroke sprayed wide by Hancocks' opening goal scorer Blake Douglas with eight minutes left.
"When he got the stroke, I was very nervous,'' the Wests' captain said.
After the missed opportunity, the relief on the faces of the Wests' players was clear.
Gotting had scored his team's first goal before experienced campaigner Brent Nicholls added a double to put Wests in charge.
However, a flick-in goal by Hancocks' stalwart Brent Kinnane revived the game, setting up the most exciting finish in Saturday's grand finals.
"I can't fault them at all,'' Gotting said of his teammates who had secured the minor premiership before Saturday's win at Raceview.
"They worked so hard throughout the season and put in a big effort all the way.''
Gotting appreciated seasoned players like Nicholls, player of the final Damien Goodwin and Michael Wiseman returning to boost the side.
As many regular hockey fans noted on Saturday, it was unusual not to have Easts and Norths playing in the major senior grand finals.
Wests capitalised by winning two titles.
The Swifts Bluebirds also won the R2 and Reserve Grade women's titles before the Wests-Hancocks duels in the three other senior deciders.
The second A Grade victory of the Hancocks men since 2015 included what is thought to be a club milestone.
Hancocks members at the weekend thought goalkeeper Stu Darby and his son Ben could be the first father-son combination to share in a winning premiership for the club.
In Friday night's A2 grand finals, Norths White beat Norths Red 2-0 in the men's encounter.
Bellbowrie won the women's final 2-0 over Thistles.
Ipswich junior player of the year, rising Bellbowrie goalkeeping prospect Victoria Heffernan, was named player of the final.