Norths players Tobias Figura, Dean Jeffrey and Mark Pocock lead the post-game celebration at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.
Norths players Tobias Figura, Dean Jeffrey and Mark Pocock lead the post-game celebration at the Ipswich Hockey Complex. Claudia Baxter

Norths rise in epic duel

PREPARING to celebrate after one of the best A-grade finals in Ipswich hockey history, Norths coach Jamie Burns had every reason to stand proud.

He'd played in Norths' earlier wins in 2000 and from 2003-2007.

However, seeing a young team hold its nerve in four periods of extra-time made Saturday night's 4-3 triumph exceptional.

"I still like my first one as a player," Burns said. "But this is not far off.

"I've watched seven boys never play finals before today. It's a special day."

Burns deserved praise for helping rebuild the Devils after a few seasons where they lost their way in finals.

"We had to do it the hard way but as I said all year, we only had to win one game that matters," Burns said.

"You have to give it to them (Easts). They're still a gun team.

"Our boys just fought with a lot of heart."

Both teams had chances to win in sudden-death extra time, hitting the post.

Norths had a player advantage during the first two periods of drop-offs after Nathan Hooper was sinbinned late in the game.

Norths speedster Aaron O'Beirne finally broke the deadlock in the 91st minute.

He had sent the game into extra time after levelling the scores at 3-3 with a 68th minute field goal.

Easts coach Paul Malcolm agreed it was an extraordinary grand final after his team was denied a fifth consecutive title.

"It was amazing to be on the other side of it but that's why you play hockey," he said.

"You've got to take the ups with the downs.

"I don't think I took a breath for the last 20 minutes of that game and I've got no nails there.

"I'd rather be sitting on the sideline because I wouldn't have liked to be out there."

Malcolm played in Easts' earlier Reserve grade grand final win over Norths. However, the A-grade final was the cliffhanger.

"It could have gone either way," Malcolm said.

"We hit the post twice in drop-offs plus we had a man sitting on the bench.

"But give it to Norths. They stayed in, they fought the whole time."

Malcolm is undecided about his role next season. But he backed his players to hit back strongly.

"I'm gutted for them but I know they'll turn it around and back it up next year," he said. "They are quality a side too."

Norths midfield/striker Tobias Figura was named player of the final.

Exhausted Norths captain Mark Pocock urged his players to remember the feeling of winning such a terrific duel.

"Out there, it was hard to dare to dream that we could win it," Pocock said.

"We knew we had the ability. We just had to put it together out on the field.

"By the end there I was just down on my legs."

Norths players wore black armbands to honour former life member and foundation member Edward "Ted" Roberts.