Well ... after 18 minor rounds and three weeks of finals, it all comes down to this. Grand final time in local hockey. In a remarkable effort, Panthers see themselves in all but one senior grade. Park Royal would be ecstatic with that effort no matter what happens this weekend.
The Panther girls will take on Mid North in the division 1 women with Mid North getting over the line this weekend against Risdon. Cruisers scraped through against Saint Andrews thanks to ladder position, but were much stronger against Risdon winning 3-2. If they are going to get over the line this week against Panthers, they will need big games from their midfield stars in Donato, Peterson and Sparks. Panthers will be needing the ball on the stick of league medallist Mads Jordan if they are going to end the weekend with medals around their necks.
A date with Saint Andrews was waiting for the winner of the game between Panthers and Risdon on Saturday night. In a frantic game, Risdon hit the scoreboard early going up 2-0 and you could have been forgiven for thinking that a major upset was on the cards. It was Panthers that ground out the win with 3 goals to Lee Kirchner and 2 to Matt Lowe. Panthers will come across a dominant Saint Andrews side this weekend and will have to sure up their defence if they are going to win this grand final. Saint Andrews have won the last 2 flags in this grade, both against Panthers, but anything can happen on grand final day and Panthers have enough elite players to cause more than a few headaches to the Saints defence.
Crystal Brook made it straight through to the grand final in the division 2 women and would have been watching the game between Risdon and Panthers with baited breath to see who they have to face in the last game of the year. Risdon have been the fairytale story of 2017 after not being able to field a side last year. Winless all year, they had a huge upset last week against Saint Andrews and were looking at doing the same this week against Panthers. It was not to be however as Panthers class was too much running away with the game 4-0. As for this week, it’s going to be an absolutely unbelievable game. Crystal Brook have been unbelievable this year, but Panthers have a lot of young talent with quick legs. Only a brave tipper would put money on this result.
The 2 dominant teams have ended up in the grand final in division 2 men with Panthers taking on Saint Andrews in the decider after Saints got the job done against Risdon on the weekend. Risdon have battled hard this year and their score lines did not reflect their year. Saints managed to get their forward line sorted out this game, and will have to carry that through to this weekend if they have any chance. The game is going to be decided by in the Saint forward line with Panthers defence trying to stay strong against players like Monaghan, Pittaway and Johns. Panthers defenders have been outstanding this year and will be liking their chances of shutting the Saints forwards down this week.
After a shock loss last week, Saint Andrews got another scare this week in the division 3 women but managed to scrape through to the grand final in extra time against Crystal Brook. The Brookies have been there about this year, and although they would be disappointed about the weekend’s result, they should be really proud to take the game to the second period of extra time. Both Panthers and Saint Andrews have a great mix of younger players that can run all day and experienced players that can read the play and can direct and organise their players into position. This one is really going to be a coin toss as there is nothing separating these 2 sides. Whoever can score early will go a long way to ending the day happy.
It will be Strykers and Crystal Brook fighting it out for the division 3 men’s premiership in 2017 after the purple haze defeated Panthers 4-0. Panthers were always going to be up against it taking on the minor premiers, and it proved too much for them in the end despite a great game from Jay Norton and Richard Mummery. Strykers were many people’s tip this year for the flag after consolidating their division 2 and division 3 into one grade. Crystal Brook however, managed to sneak out a win in the first final to go straight through and will be looking to double up this weekend. Strykers will need league medallist Scott Tattoli to perform if they are going to get their hands on the shield, and will certainly get some attention from the Brookies defence.
Andrew Murray from Saint Andrews got his eye in on the weekend, scoring 5 in the win over Saint Marks in the division 4 men. He will need all of that and more if Saints are going to get over the line this week against Panthers. These 2 teams have played in the last 2 grand finals and it has been Panthers every time that has taken home the medals. The first final was pushed into extra time, so Saints know they can “run” with Panthers for 70 minutes on their day, but the question is will Saturday be their day.
Good luck to all players, coaches, spectators, umpires and volunteers this weekend. Finish off the year strong!