The Queensland Blades have won the last-ever Australian Hockey League (AHL) title after an entertaining 5-3 win over the NSW Waratahs at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre on Sunday night.
Tweed Coast forward Dylan Wotherspoon returned from suspension to score three crucial goals in the win, which earned Queensland a record-breaking 10th men’s title.
Queensland went ahead early but the Waratahs rallied twice thanks to Blake and Kieran Govers, with the hosts ahead 4-3 at the final change.
Wotherspoon got the decisive goal in the 47th minute although Queensland had to withstand wave after wave of Waratahs pressure.
NSW had the first chance of the game as Blake Govers’ drag flick was well saved by Blades goalkeeper Matthew Finn.
Govers came close again moments later when his shot was brilliantly blocked on the line by Queensland’s Adam Imer.
The breakthrough came early in the second, when Wotherspoon calmly slotted Jacob Anderson’s pass in the 19th minute.
Wotherspoon stepped up to wrongfoot NSW keeper Ash Thomas to make it 2-0 from the conversion.
NSW replied almost immediately, after Kurt Lovett won a short corner, which Blake Govers fired powerfully into the backboard to make it 2-1.
Queensland responded a minute later, as Daniel Beale started and finished a play with a reverse stick shot having pounced on a loose ball. Beale took his conversion to make it 4-1.
Labrador local Corey Weyer shot wide in the 36th minute, while Finn saved well from Kieran Govers’ drag flick.
Moments later Kieran Govers did get his goal, whacking home an emphatic finish at the far post, before capitalising on his conversion opportunity to make it 4-3.
The final term was a seesawing affair, but Wotherspoon gave Queensland the ideal start with a close-range deflection after great lead-up play from Scott Boyde.
Thomas did well to cleverly swat away Wotherspoon’s conversion to keep NSW within touching distance in the final 10 minutes.
NSW pulled their goalkeeper with eight minutes to play for an outfield player in a bold move and had their chances with Flynn Ogilvie’s low drive forcing a save from Finn.
The Waratahs huffed and puffed with Queensland’s Matthew Swann’s tackle from a short corner symbolic of the Blades’ resilience as they claimed the last-ever AHL title.
Queensland Blades 5 (D. Wotherspoon 19’, 19’, 47’, Beale 22’, 22’). NSW Waratahs 3 (B. Govers 21’, K. Govers 43’, 43’)