Hancocks share how much it means to win a COVID final
AFTER scoring a double that broke an incredible deadlock, livewire Hancocks striker Ryan Smith typified how much the latest Ipswich A-Grade grand final meant.
It may have been called the 2020 COVID competition with some format changes but it took a mighty effort from Hancocks tonight to regain the grand final title they lost to Norths last year.
Smith's second goal with nine minutes left proved the winner, giving his team a 3-2 advantage in the rapid-fire, up tempo duel.
But with Hancocks and Norths regularly scoring in the final seconds to win previous clashes, it was defence that ultimately proved the difference at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
"It's just exciting,'' Smith said of playing in yet another thriller between the Ipswich club rivals and worthy grand final combatants.
"We knew before coming here it was always going to be a game of attack because every game versus Norths has been high scoring and we were expecting that.
"It felt like both our defences were pretty on point tonight.
"Last year we beat them all year and unfortunately didn't win in the final but this year we kept going.
"I think with the break during the year, it was just great for Ipswich Hockey to host a comp anyway . . . and to come away with a win just makes it more special.''
Smith was justifiably delighted for his team after playing in his fifth consecutive grand final.
"Full credit to the boys,'' he said. "It's a team sport and if you play as a team you win, and that's what we did tonight,'' he said.
Smith's assessment was spot on with both Hancocks and Norths having to repel some top quality penalty corner strikes.
Norths sharpshooter Zac Profke scored both his team's goals from superb penalty corner manoeuvres.
Hancocks led 1-0 after Smith's first goal came from fantastic team build-up.
Profke equalised after turning in the circle and slamming home his first goal.
Former international under-21 goalkeeper Cade Banditt put Hancocks up 2-1 when he displayed his ability to drive home a winner.
Profke ensured the teams remained deadlocked at 2-2 going into the break with another of his specialist strikes.
After entertaining end-to-end play and brilliant counter attacking, Smith finally broke free to use his speed to advantage and score at a crucial time.
"You never think you are going to win but when your defence holds strong and you are up by one, there's a good chance you are going to come away with it,'' he said.
"We just held strong.''
Hancocks captain Sam Morgan agreed after sharing in such a fantastic clash.
"The boys put the effort in. That's what we spoke about before the game and it all paid off in the end,'' Morgan said.
"Even though it was a shortened season we played, it still meant a lot.
"Losing the grand final last year and going again this year undefeated, it was fantastic. Absolutely love it.''
Like Smith, Morgan has played in most of Hancocks grand finals over the past five or six years, only missing one with a knee injury.
But he had the added responsibility of assuming the leadership this year from Nathan Smith.
"Nathan is one of my mates so it was good to take over the captaincy from him but there's so many leaders in this team, it's just someone wearing the captain's band at the end of the day.''
Hancocks earlier kept more relaxed this year by warming up on the field jogging around the field throwing around a football.
Coach Sara Rogers had conceded nerves played a part in last year's grand final defeat to the Devils.
"You've got to give Sara a wrap,'' Smith said.
"She's been around a long time and she knows what to do.
"Hopefully she can get the win tomorrow and make our weekend every better.''
Rogers is captain of the Hancocks team meeting Thistles in Sunday's 5.30pm A-Grade women's decider against Thistles.
The Hancocks A-Grade victory completed a Saturday trifecta after the club's E-Grade boys and A2 Men's teams also won their encounters today.
Ipswich hockey's grand finals continue on Sunday from 9am.
STATE OF PLAY
Ipswich A-Grade men's grand final: Hancocks 3 (Ryan Smith 2, Cade Banditt) def Norths 2 (Zac Profke 2).