The Australian Underwater Hockey National Championships drew to a close last Sunday with an exciting end to an incredibly well-run and enjoyed tournament.
The 2015 Australian National Underwater Hockey Championships was hosted by the NSW Underwater Hockey community and held at the Knox Grammar Aquatic Centre in Wahroonga (Sydney). Twenty-seven teams from five different states competed across the divisions: U15, U19, Elite Men, Elite Women and Masters. The tournament began on Tuesday January 20 with a brief formal opening ceremony and social BBQ, and ended on Sunday January 25th with some breathtakingly close finals.
The elite divisions saw some of the most exciting and impressive finals hockey from recent years. In the women’s final WA (3) and NSW (2) played goal for goal until the final minutes when WA scored putting them in the lead to close the match. Hayley Digney from WA was awarded MVP.
The Men’s final (see above footage) drew a huge crowd – both spectators in water and out were treated to the underwater showdown of 2015, and some of Australia’s most eventful underwater hockey. TAS came into the final the underdogs having fought their way through the round-robin with a collection of losses and wins and battling through the semi-final to defeat VIC (1) goal to (2). WA, the reigning champions have been strong in the elite Men’s division for many years. Both teams showcased a mix of experience and up and coming talent. After a thrilling thirty minutes the teams finished on a draw, forcing overtime. Two extra five minute halves were played with Tasmania scoring and managing to defend WA’s efforts, the final score: TAS (4) vs WA (3). Nick Martin, full back for TAS, was awarded MVP.
Starting the finals day was the U15 division, where WA (7) defeated TAS (0). Despite the disparity amongst the teams in this division there were some impressive demonstrations of sportsmanship and community amongst the young players. Pool side all junior teams shared in the excitement, supporting and encouraging each other and their state. A particularly heartwarming moment occurred in the TAS (20) vs VIC (2) game, when TAS coach gathered his team and instructed them to give the opposition an opportunity to score. The Victorian team included some inexperienced players and a combination of VIC and NSW competitors. Tasmania’s good will allowed the Victorian team the opportunity to develop and enjoy a couple of goals. UHA is proud of the fairness and sincerity demonstrated by all its young athletes at this years nationals.
TAS (8) dominated in the U19 division, defeating WA (2). Two Tasmanian players were also awarded MVP for these matches. Harry Owens in the U15 division and Dan Gould in the U19.
Interestingly, two West Australian teams faced each other in the Masters final: WA Country (0) was defeated by WA Metro (7). Despite their loss, Pat Kelly from WA Country impressed the spectators and was awarded the MVP accolade for the Masters arena.
This years nationals facilitated some impressive and sensational underwater hockey matches. Special thanks and praises go to Billy Hodgets, and the team of volunteers and referees who gave their time and efforts to make this tournament the best it could be.
UHA look forward already to the next Nationals, which will be held in Bunbury, WA from January 4-8, 2016.