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Geraldton the champions after claiming epic final to stop Upper Great Southern’s Cinderella run

Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton are womens country week champions
Camera IconGeraldton are womens country week champions Credit: Facebook

Down to the final 30 seconds, Emma Bowen passed to Lauren Newman who passed to Sienna Norgett who slotted the match-winning goal, a play that crowned Geraldton country week hockey champions, for the first time since 2018 after an epic final.

Geraldton have added another country week shield to their collection as the division one women’s squad battled through to and won the grand final on Sunday afternoon in dramatic fashion.

Geraldton were considered an outside chance heading into the weekend with defending champions Bunbury widely tipped to defend their crown.

In a pool of four, all teams would make it through to the semi-final but the main goal was to avoid finishing fourth and facing Bunbury in the semi-final.

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Geraldton all but made sure of that with a 1-0 win over the Lower Great Southern Hockey Association.

As expected they were outclassed against Bunbury who won 3-0 and would go through the group stage undefeated, conceding just one goal.

A draw against the winless Upper Great Southern Association would be enough to secure second with four points.

This put them in the semi-final against Lower Great Southern, where the drama was dialled up to 11.

The teams could not be split in regulation time, finishing 1-1, sending both teams to a shoot-out.

But it was Geraldton who kept their heads, edging the shoot-out 4-3 to qualify for the final but, shockingly, not against Bunbury.

Upper Great Southern who finished in fourth stunned the powerhouse Bunbury 2-0 in their semi-final to find themselves in the big dance.

They started strongly with Geraldton forced on defence early but the tide slowly turned as Geraldton grew into the game.

Now Geraldton was on the attack as they launched multiple barrages against a UGSHA defence who were holding on grimly to prevent any clear-cut final shots despite multiple short corners.

But right on the half, UGSHA won a short corner to threaten to steal one late but Dirranie Kirby stepped out to clear the danger as the teams went into the break locked at 0-0.

It was a cagey start to the second half with both teams holding firm but as the clock wore down, the game opened up.

Both sides started going for long balls as the midfield spread, knowing one goal would likely be enough, but with less than a minute to go the game looked destined to go to sudden death.

Then Lauren Newman made a key trap on a final UGSHA foray and sent the ball long, catching a UGSHA stick to give Geraldton the ball right by the corner flag.

Holly Stubberfield brought the ball back into play, Norgett found the ball at the near post but couldn’t get it past the keeper as the ball went out for a long corner.

Bowen recycled the ball out to Newman who fired in a pass straight through the middle to the danger zone where the ball bobbled around before spilling out to Norgett who swept home on her first touch to score the match-winner with 30 seconds left.

They defended the last 12 seconds before Geraldton jubilantly threw their sticks up in the air and embraced at the end of a thrilling contest.

Geraldton’s squad was a mix of youth and experience but in the end, it was the wise head of Kirby in goal who was awarded player of the tournament for her epic performance in the shoot-out on Saturday and allowing just four goals in regulation time.

“It was pretty damn exciting especially when you leave it the final minute to decide the final,” she said.

“We had a really young side and always had potential but we didn’t go in with any expectations and I think that probably helped us in the end.”

“I’m probably one of those strange goalkeepers who don’t mind one on one’s so that probably helped in the semi-final but I was more nervous in the final minutes of the grand final as it’s always better to get it done in regulation.”

“I had a very busy weekend in goals but I thought Lauren Newman was outstanding as was Brooke Elward but as a squad we just got better and better through the weekend.”

In the second division, Geraldton finished in eighth in a tough pool while their Masters 1 squad finished in fourth claiming a win over Eastern Districts and their Masters 2 team finishing in sixth.

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