Hockey heaven for Grafton schoolgirl Sarah Donnelly
GRAFTON schoolgirl Sarah Donnolley knows how to do something the NSW State of Origin rugby league team has forgotten - beat Queensland.
The 14-year-old Grafton High School student was part of the NSW team that beat Queensland in a thrilling final at the National under-15 Hockey Championships in Hobart.
And to rub it in, it was NSW's sixth successive win over the girls in maroon in the age group.
The desperate Queenslanders must have thought they had broken through for a win when they went up 1-0 early in the second half of Sunday's clash.
But with five minutes to go, a hard cross into the goal circle caught a Blues stick and deflected into the goal to level the scores and set up a thrilling finish.
"We went straight into penalty shootout," Donnolley said.
"At the end of the first round it was 2-all and we went into sudden-death.
"The five players taking the penalties went through twice. There must have been 20 penalty strokes all up."
The Blues took their chance on the 20th stroke to send the team into raptures.
"It was the most nerve-racking thing I've ever experienced," Donnolley said.
"All through the penalty strokes we were trying to encourage the players taking the strokes but it just seemed to go on forever."
Earlier in the tournament NSW tasted its only defeat at the hands of the Queensland 2 team, going down 4-3.
"I think they wanted to show they should be the Queensland 1 team," Donnolley said.
"They were harder to play than their top team in the final. They were so physical and hungry for the ball."
On Saturday NSW and Queensland 2 played again but the Blues had prepared for the game.
"We knew we had to be strong on the ball and move it around to stop them muscling us off the ball," Donnolley said.
"It was a really tough game and we were able to get a 2-2 draw which put us into the final."
The week of tournament play has given the Year 9 student the confidence to follow her dream of higher honours.
"One day I want to play for the Hockeyroos," Donnolley said.
To help her reach her goal, the talented teenager does extra skills and fitness training with Rick Sampson and heads to the gym twice a week with Jen Harley.
"To get where I want to go I know I have to work on my fitness and skills," she said.
NSW progressed to the final of the National under-15 Championships in Hobart from April 12-21. NSW won the final 4-3 on penalty strokes.
NSW 4 d WA 1
NSW 5 d Tas 0
NSW 3 l Qld2 4
NSW 3 d ACT 0
NSW 1 d NSW2 0
NSW 2 dr Qld2 2
NSW 4 d Qld 3