Mt Barker return to break title drought

Headshot of Cameron Newbold
Cameron NewboldAlbany Advertiser

Mt Barker claimed their first Lower Great Southern Hockey Association men’s A-grade premiership since 1969 after prevailing 3-0 over Spencer Park in Saturday night’s decider to cap a stellar return to the competition.

After being in and out of the LGSHA in the past, Mt Barker re-joined the A-grade ranks this season with terrific success as they scored two second-half goals to secure a long-awaited men’s title almost 20 years after they last had a team in the competition.

Last competing in the men’s A-grade in 1998, Mt Barker had to withstand a gallant challenge from the young and attacking Park outfit after opening the scoring inside two minutes.

Spencer Park's Angus Milne.
Camera IconSpencer Park's Angus Milne. Credit: Albany Advertiser

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Striker Nic Slade made an immediate statement on the decider when he converted Mt Barker’s first penalty corner just 90 seconds in. Park began to work their way into the game and very nearly scored from a penalty corner themselves soon afterwards.

Mt Barker, though, continued to attack as Slade almost had an early double and then Park were forced to defend frantically on the verge of half-time with successive penalty corners attempts, but went into half time only trailing 1-0.

Park, without key playmaker Jack Dawson, who went to hospital with a serious back injury, defended with their lives for much of the second half until Hayden MacMahon delivered a dagger to Park hearts with a penalty corner conversion with less than seven minutes to play.

Spencer Park's James Gonzales holds out Mt Barker's Trevor McMahon.
Camera IconSpencer Park's James Gonzales holds out Mt Barker's Trevor McMahon. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Mt Barker player-coach Reece Curwen, who had showed his class throughout the grand final, scored a late field goal to complete the premiership triumph for his new club.

Curwen won the medal as best player in the grand final after constantly driving his team into attack while teammates Rick Wise, Darcey Burcham and Slade were also highly influential.

Mt Barker players celebrate their third goal.
Camera IconMt Barker players celebrate their third goal. Credit: Albany Advertiser

“We couldn’t have written a better script on how the year ended,” Curwen said.

“It was a really special way to finish.

“(Scoreline) 3-0 was not a reflection on how hard-fought it was.

“It could have gone either way.

“We were on the back foot in the first half and if it wasn’t for our defenders it could have been a different story.”

Mt Barker’s Hayden MacMahon.
Camera IconMt Barker’s Hayden MacMahon. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Mt Barker goalkeeper Matthew Light made a couple of telling saves to deny Park getting on the board as they swept forward numerous times through pacy youngsters Angus Milne, Karel Cronje and James Gonzales.

Park did well to be in the game for so long, with their goalie Antony Payne also doing a superb job on the last line, especially given Mt Barker had nine penalty corners, six of them in the last 35 minutes.

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