Sutherland have advanced to their second Sydney Hockey Association premier league one grand final in a row after a heart-stopping extra-time victory over Ryde.
Sutho trailed 4-2 with seven minutes remaining at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday night before coach Peter Tait made the decision to pull goalkeeper Nathan Akroyd to give Sutherland an extra outfield player which started the epic comeback.
The gamble paid off, with Matt Johnson scoring from a penalty stroke to give Sutherland a chance at 4-3.
Then, Ryde earned themselves a short corner with less than three minutes left. With Sutherland without a goalkeeper, it was left to fullback Matt Phillips to put his body on the line and block the shot.
Moments later Sutherland dramatically equalised through Kieran Govers to send the game to golden-goal extra-time.
Sutho earned a short corner within a minute of the restart which Govers converted again to seal Sutherland’s passage through to the grand final.
Sutherland coach Peter Tait said the decision to remove Akroyd was a gamble but paid tribute to his players.
“I guess it was bold move but something we had talked about and had done during the year, it was just earlier [than] expected,” he said.
“A lot of the time it doesn’t come off taking the goalkeeper off and can be risky but we were down on the scoreboard and needed to take a risk. But this playing group has a strong belief and a never give up attitude which was priceless today under real pressure.
“We had played really well today and knew if we got back to 4-all we could go on and win it. The great thing is our team is yet to play 70 minutes of our best hockey.”
But this playing group has a strong belief and a never give up attitude which was priceless today under real pressure.
Sutho will look to gain revenge over reigning premiers Moorebank-Liverpool in the decider, who beat Sutherland in last year’s grand final. Moorebank will go into the match as favourites having won three of the last four finals.
Sutherland enter the game in excellent form having won their last eight matches. Their last defeat came against Moorebank at the start of July.
The grand final, at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday, starts at 6pm.