Let’s win for Layla: Hancocks rally in grand final thriller
THE thoughts of Hancocks players, coaches and supporters were with national league midfielder Layla Eleison after the club secured its fourth Ipswich grand final victory tonight.
Eleison crashed to the Ipswich Hockey Complex turf after being struck in the head during the second period of extra-time in the A-Grade women's grand final.
She was escorted from the field and taken by ambulance to hospital as a precaution after the injury scare. The grand final was locked at 0-0 with the prospect of shootouts looming when the incident happened.
Layla's younger sister Abby then conjured the sudden death winning goal with just three minutes of extra-time remaining.
Amid the jubilation of finally beating determined opponents Thistles, everyone was concerned about state player Eleison's welfare.
She was groggy but conscious as Hancocks manager and nurse James Want looked after her.
Hancocks captain Sara Rogers said everyone was waiting to hear more about how Eleison was faring.
For senior player Natalie Davison and her teammates, seeing Layla lying facedown on the turf provided the final motivation needed to break the deadlock after a tremendous defensive battle.
"Definitely,'' Davison said after the dramatic finish.
"You're always a bit nervous when someone goes down, especially an important role like Layla.
"You get that turn-on that works for us nine times out of 10.''
Despite having regular grand final winners Wests out of the equation this year, Davison said Hancocks treated Thistles with the respect they deserved.
"Thistles have put together a good team, even with COVID,'' she said.
"I think it's the best comp we've had this year.
"They (Thistles) are definitely very strong when it comes to positional play.
"But things open up as the game goes on, teams get tired and things change so you are able to just hold it out, hold out strong and get there in the end.''
As one of the key links in the Hancocks side, Davison was pleased to see new players like Genevieve Ferguson "fit right in'' with the core of loyal club players.
Davison also wished defensive teammate Miranda McNamara well as she played her last game with her long-time surname before getting married next weekend.
Thistles captain Nicole Yearbury was confident of keeping her team together for next season after a successful return to A-Grade.
"It was a little bit disappointing especially coming all this way and lose in golden goal,'' she said.
"It was a bit back and forth.''
Yearbury has been with Thistles for the last two years after originally being with Bellbowrie.
"We've got a number of younger players so hopefully we can stick around for another season and get some more experience. It's good for the club,'' she said.
Thistles were chasing their first A-Grade grand final victory since the 1990s.
The efforts of club president Pauline Alchin, her family, and the Pavitt clan ensured Thistles were a competitive force this year.
Alchin was fittingly a part of the Thistles A2 side that won their grand final on Saturday, 3-0 over Bellbowrie.
Tonight's A-Grade duel was the third game in a row requiring extra-time to find a winner.
The Norths men won the earlier Reserve Grade decider in shootouts after Swifts won the Reserve Grade women's grand final by the same deadlock-busting format.
Look out for more stories on the other exciting grand finals online tomorrow.
STATE OF PLAY
A-Grade women's grand final: Hancock Brothers 1 (Abby Eleison) def Thistles 0 in the second period of extra-time.
2020 COVID competition winners and runners-up
A Grade men: Hancock Brothers-Norths
A Grade women: Hancock Brothers-Thistles
Reserve men: Norths-Hancock Brothers
Reserve women: Swifts-Northern Strikers
R2 men: Shared by Norths & Easts Black
R2 women: Vets-Swifts
A2 men: Hancock Brothers-Swifts
A2 women: Thistles-Bellbowrie
C Grade girls: Norths-Hancock Brothers
D Grade boys: Easts-Northern Strikers
D Grade girls: Swifts-Western Strikers
E Grade boys: Hancock Brothers-Easts Black
E Grade girls: Easts-Norths