Cooloola in red hot form
THE Cooloola Heat is into the grand final of the Sunshine Coast men's hockey competition this weekend, following a convincing 4-1 victory over Maroochydore in the preliminary final on Sunday.
After finishing the season in third spot on the ladder, the Heat defeated Flinders in the knockout semi-final two weeks ago to advance to Sunday's game against a Maroochydore side down on confidence after their 7-3 loss to Buderim Rebels in the major semi-final.
"Both teams showed up ready to play, and the opening 15 minutes was fast-paced hockey," Heat player/coach Dom Stephens said.
"There were no chances for either side early on, until our midfield broke free and Codey Warhurst slotted the perfect tomahawk goal for a 1-0 lead."
Maroochydore hit back through German import Ed Hamill, with his goal from a penalty corner making the score 1-1.
Less than two minutes later a pinpoint 40m pass from Kalum Warhurst found Mitch Robertson at the top of the circle, who turned and rocketed his back-stick shot past the Maroochydore keeper for a 2-1 lead.
"It is one of the best goals this season, and the boys were fired up," Stephens said.
"With two minutes to half-time Codey Warhurst made another attacking run through the midfield to set up Nathan Stephens for our third goal; another absolute cracker!
"Usually we would have taken the first shot on goal but Codey knew that passing off to Nathan was the percentage play.
"That's the difference with our team at the moment. We are playing hard and fast team hockey and it's paying off.
"Going into the break 3-1 up was a nice position to be in but we knew the game was far from over."
While Maroochydore came out firing after the break in the pouring rain, Coloma's defence held strong, and with 15 minutes on the clock a breakaway pass found striker Jack McKean, who beat his defender and the goalkeeper only to be tripped over.
As the ball bobbled toward the goal, a Maroochydore defender seemed to have it covered, before McKean used his height and massive reach to get another touch on the ball and seal the victory with the Heat's fourth goal of the night.
Stephens thanked the Gympie supporters who made the trip down to Buderim for the match.
"The clubhouse was full and there were even Cooloola supporters cheering from the grass hill in the pouring rain," he said.
The Heat will be faced with a massive challenge in the final on Saturday, taking on undefeated minor premiers Buderim.
A supporters' bus will leave at 4pm from the Gympie hockey fields at Ramsay Park, with locals encouraged to wear maroon.
To book a seat, call 0417 911 385.
"It was a great win on Sunday, and while the team was happy with the result, we know the job isn't done," Stephens said.
"We want more; we want to take the competition out."