North Albany eye coveted back-to-back premierships

Headshot of Cameron Newbold
Cameron NewboldAlbany Advertiser
Spencer Park's Sarah Hearle and North Albany's Cionne Fage will be keys to their respective sides.
Camera IconSpencer Park's Sarah Hearle and North Albany's Cionne Fage will be keys to their respective sides. Credit: Laurie Benson

North Albany will enter Saturday’s Lower Great Southern Hockey Association women’s A-grade grand final as raging favourites as they prepare to tackle Spencer Park in their bid to win back-to-back premierships.

Redbacks lost only one game during the regular season and progressed to the decider after an emphatic 5-2 win over Mt Barker in the second semifinal as they look to replicate last season’s grand final triumph.

An array of talented young players, headed by recently crowned women’s A-grade fairest and best winner Sophie McDonald and joint leading goal scorers Cionne Fage and Tallulah Gouldthorp, have been instrumental in Redbacks’ form this season.

Redbacks have beaten Park in three of their four encounters this season, with a 3-3 draw in round 6 the closest the two sides have been but coach Matt Gouldthorp said his side had continued to improve.

“We can’t complain about our form,” Gouldthorp said.

“We built from what we did last year, have been playing good hockey and continued to work on our style of play.

“Our younger players have got bigger and faster and we are pretty lucky we do have really good youngsters.”

Redbacks will be without veteran Kelly Burlikowski for the grand final and Gouldthorp said his side would not be underestimating Park.

“They’ve been building as well and they will feel excited and confident they’ve beaten Mt Barker,” she said. “Spencer have nothing to lose, which is always dangerous to play against.”

Park have eliminated Manypeaks and Mt Barker on their way to their first grand final since 2012, which was the year they snapped a six-year premiership drought.

Rachael Goetze is the only surviving member of that premiership team and is a key part of a speedy Park front half that contains youngsters Sarah Hearle, Tess Congram and Jorja Williamson along with the creative Georgina Lilford.

Park have shown their ability to defend impressively for long periods and soak up opposition pressure before pouncing on the counterattack, and again that looms as a vital part of their hopes of causing an upset in the biggest game of the season.

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