DUROUX DELIVERS: Bears roar into womens decider
HOCKEY: City Bears have achieved the unbelievable, earning a grand final berth in their first season back in the Grafton Hockey Association women's top division.
And they had to go right down to the wire to achieve it.
After more than a gruelling hour on the field, it came down to a clutch penalty stroke from star Sammy Duroux in the final minute of extra time.
For coach, Rick Sampson, it was the culmination of almost 12 months of hard work.
"It went right down to the wire, I was a mess by the end of it, I was just full of nerves in the dugout,” Sampson said.
"To think, from where they have come to what they have achieved this year is incredible.
"I think we have only got four players who had A Grade experience last season. The rest of them has come from the lower grades or returned to hockey this year.”
While he had no idea about the secret to the sides success, Sampson was sure it had to do with the commitment to training that the side shows.
City Bears women train once a week, and on average will host around 15 of the 17 person squad every time.
"I reckon they could teach our blokes a thing or two,” Sampson said. "It just goes to show, no matter what level of talent you have in your side, if they train hard and commit to each other they can succeed.”
The Bears earned the right to face juggernaut McAuley White in the grand final through the sheer determination of their defensive line.
It had been a major talking point during the week, and Sampson was pleased to see the women put it into action on Brent Livermore Field.
"We were big on the fact the girls had to mark up person to person because Sailors are so lethal in that attacking zone,” he said. "The girls were just sensational in defence. The players put themselves in the right spots at the right times and made the right decisions.
"Credit to Sailors as well for their efforts in defence. We threw all we had at them and in the end it just came down to a series of short corners and ultimately the penalty stroke.
"It was a really great game, a real finals style game.”
Looking toward the grand final at the weekend, Sampson said he had one main focal point for his side.
"We just need to stay calm and stay patient with the ball,” he said. "You need to be patient and calm and assess the options. You don't just want to go in one direction against a quality side like McAuley.”