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Hockey heroes in golden finish

26 August 2010

Australia’s Youth Olympic Games have closed with a bang, with the boys’ hockey team coming from behind to defeat Pakistan 2-1 in a thrilling final.

It was a tense encounter for the full 70 minutes with both teams desperate for the win.

When the two teams met in the round matches, it was Pakistan who dominated early play, forcing Australia to chase their fast game.

It was a case of déjà vu tonight at the Sengkang Stadium, with Pakistan taking an early lead, putting the first point on the board with a field goal to Muhammad Umair (10’).

The first half played out with the toughest hockey seen in the tournament. Neither team was able to add any goals to the tally. Aussie captain Daniel Beale had a penalty stroke conversion sensationally saved by the Pakistani keeper.

There was no denying the Aussie determination coming into the second half and they were displaying signs of great teamwork, but it was not enough to get an advantage over the strong Pakistani side.

The scoreline remained unchanged for the rest of the second half and Australia was forced to play a man down for a period after Jeremy Hayward was dealt a yellow card (43’) - after a collision that saw him and his opponent hit the turf.

Buoyed by the support of the entire Australian Team, as well as family and friends in the crowd, a great attacking run through the Pakistan defence from outside the circle, led to a cross before a lightning backhand strike from 16-year-old Dylan Wotherspoon levelled the score in the 49th minute.

“I told them over the last couple of days that for sitting out, I would pay it back out on the corner,” Wotherspoon said, having missed the last round game in suspension. “I stuck with and scored, it was great.”

A classy tackle from Victorian Byron Walton saw a vital turnover for the green and gold team. Although they were unable to score from the play, Pakistan’s Muhammad Sohaib was yellow carded and sent to the bin (63’).

A man-up, Australia kept piling on the pressure with constant attacking raids. The Pakistan defence eventually cracked when Australia was awarded a penalty stroke and Luke Noblett, fresh from his own time in the bin, converted in the top right of the goal.

With three minutes to play and 2-1 up, Australia was able to hold out the desperate Pakistani team. When the full-time whistle was blown the Australians piled on top of each other in celebration and their opposition fell to the turf.

“It’s great,” Beale exclaimed. “We came here for the gold and that’s what we got. It feels great.”

The main grandstand was filled tonight with the entire Australian Youth Olympic Team coming to cheer on their teammates. For all athletes, coaches and officials it was the perfect way for the Australian Team to finish competition at the first Youth Olympic Games.

So as competition drew to a close for the Aussie team and Land Down Under came onto the speakers, the green and golds held their heads high and now dream of their next step in their Olympic journey.

“It means everything,” Beale said of winning gold. “This is what we dreamed of, what we play hockey for, so for it to come true – words can not describe it.”

Alice Wheeler

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