A premiership at 50


Hockey Grand Final. Septemeber 17, 2011

by Don Haines

I’d never won a premiership.

When I was 16 we had been in a seconds footy grand final.  I was full forward, and about all I can remember is watching a set shot veer alarmingly right, and asking the coach at half time to teach me how to kick.

And there was a cricket grand final a few years later. There is just a faint memory of the look on our reliable opener’s face, as he returned to the shade of the trees too early.

            About halfway through this year I got roped in to filling in as goalie with my son’s hockey team.  Just once.  I made a slips catch type save up high and only let a couple of goals through. Everybody slapped my back and I turned into the regular goalie. Initially it was on the condition that the kid who had been goalie in the juniors last year would play goalie in the finals, but by the time finals came around I was it.

The first semi was against a team who had beaten us 4-3 the week before.  We beat them 4-0 – the first clean sheet I’d had. The previous week they’d scored a couple from a bloke who turned up unmarked on the corner of the goal net and who could just flick passes in, so I’d learned to be a bit more vocal about calling for assistance from the other defenders when their men were loose.

The next week in the preliminary final we were up against a team we’d shared the honours with through the year, but who were good enough to have beaten the top team twice through the season. We had them 1-0 at half time.  Then they got a penalty flick, as the ball had disappeared underneath me when I was on my hands and knees trying to stop it.  I couldn’t see the damned thing to clear it away– there is a little diamond shaped window of clear vision in the helmet and unless you are looking straight ahead the view is a bit impeded. The flick went high and right and in.

There were a few minutes of doubt after that before our kids cut loose and we finished off winning 5-1, with our tails high in the air.

So we were into the grand final against a team that had won the last three or four, and the last time we played them they had smashed – smashed – seven past me.

But hey – we were in the grand final and the kids had done a great job to get that far.  There were three kids playing who were young still enough to play juniors, five like my son in their first senior year, a few other teenagers and then another father of two of the kids, who is nearly as old as me and had a crook back.  But he’d been able to shear a few sheep through the week; his back was strapped up and he was ready to go.

The team we were up against were mostly grown men. Their couple of kids are six-foot twins who can blast a blowie off a blade of grass with a hockey ball from about fifty metres. They train.  They have a system. They even have a coach.

We trained the Thursday night before the final, and before the game the boys got together and sorted out a strategy for taking the short corners, which is like a corner in soccer, when theoretically there is a bit of a chance of sneaking a goal.

The plan worked and we scored early from a short, which was what we needed to give us some hope. All the crowd except for the die hard opposition were barracking for us.  We had most of the play down our end for a while but then they worked it down in front of my goal. One of their blokes drove the ball straight at me.  It glanced off of the inside of my ankle and dribbled between my pads and over the goal line. The junior’s goalie had told me weeks ago that the most important thing to remember was to be a good girl and keep my legs together.

Pretty soon after they came down again full of intent.  From about the same spot they belted it at me again. This one glanced off the front of my pads and out through backward point – a few centimetres forward of the other side goal post.

“Shit that was lucky,” I told the umpire, who was right there.

“No mate. It looked like you meant to do that.” He laughed. “Trust me – I’m a goalie too.”

Half time was 1-1.  It was hot. The kids were yappier than usual. The oranges were good. As we walked back to our positions I told Big Benny – who was our sort of centre half back and calmly stopped nearly everything – what a cool dude he was.  He reckoned there was a fair bit going on inside his head.

Not far into the second half they attacked, and amongst a flurry of sticks and legs just out in front of me somebody whacked one in towards goal. I was in the way and the ball bounced back towards the legs and sticks. They smashed it in to me again and again it bounced back. And then they sent it over into the corner of the goal and I was on my back thinking there wasn’t much I could have done about that one.

So they were up 2-1, and there was a sense of that was how it was meant to be.  But the kids were still playing well.  I was enjoying watching my boy Louis run up and down the wing – he was having a good day. He had played a really good one in the losing juniors preliminary final last year, and it was good to see he was the sort of bloke who can stand up when it counted. Skinny legged Bryden, cool methodical KeatDog, even Aaron – who should have been playing goalie, and was a kid who I’d only ever seen way back at primary school sitting outside the principals office – were stopping attack after attack. Up forward Jamie and James were trying to penetrate the impenetrable.

And then – somehow without warning, we got another one from a short corner. Might have been Jamie again – it was a bit hard to tell looking into the lowering sun from my end.  Two goals from short corners – I couldn’t remember us scoring from one since I’d been playing. Five minutes to go and 2-2.  We had another short corner right on full time that had to be played out, but we couldn’t make it count.

So it was going to be two ten minute halves of extra time and then if the scores were still level it would go to penalty flicks.  I was hoping because our guys were younger that they’d be able to run it out better. Some of their blokes were looking a bit red in the face and not just because it was hot.  A bit frustrated.  Not used to being  denied.

The first ten minutes of extra time was pretty much played between the half back lines. The first movement of the second period was straight down into my goal – I stretched out with my foot and it went under my toe but not under my heel. I place kicked it wide into the back pocket and out of danger.  Time ticked by. I was starting to think – no to get properly worried – about those penalty flicks. What chance was I going to have of stopping them?   I was a fair bit taller than the other goalie, but I reckoned he would know what he was doing more than I did.  If it came down to it I was going to go high and wide to the right. And I was going to start to move as soon as I could see the guy flicking it was committed to a shot, if I could work out when that was.

Then one of the young twins brought the ball down. I knew he was going to be able to get past the defence this time. He took the ball across the goal front until he had a clear shot.  I could imagine him thinking this was going to be the winning goal. The shot was clear – it was just me between him and the back of the net. He swung mightily, and missed it. An airy. I almost laughed with relief. Bryden darted in and swept it away and we lived.

Only a couple of minutes left.  And then suddenly another short corner for us. Jamie flicked it in high towards the goal and Nathan, a kid who came home from uni to play when we needed him, smashed it in like a baseball strike. The kids who know a bit more about the rules than I do said it was OK. Overhead tennis smashes are out. The kids reckoned the umpy slowly raised one hand, paused melodramatically, and then lifted his second hand to point back to the middle to restart play after a goal.

Maybe a minute and a half.  The attackers came down – desperate now.  But our defenders did a bit of Matty Scarlett and Corey Enright kick to kick to kill time, and then it was all over. The crowd went wild.

So – a premiership at fifty.   I never thought I’d see the day. And I don’t think I’ll forget watching Nathan smash that last goal in towards the setting sun.





  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Fantastic Don- you can savour the memories of this great win for the next 50 years!

  2. Congrats Don , now we must think about keeping the sequence going next year

  3. Great story Don. Although I must admit to some concern at the headline. I am happy now to concede the oldest Premiership winner of all, as long as I can maintain my claim on the oldest footy Premiership (45). Went to training last week and am still recovering even though I sat out the stairs and gut running at the end.

    Hockey is a great game too. My Mum did the same thing for my sister’s team when they were down a goalie, and/or anyone else stupid enough to move from the field to the target zone!

    Kudos to you, your teams Premiership and the thrill of being part of a championship team with your son. Special!

  4. Casey McGurk says:

    Well done Uncle Don!!! That will be a very special memory having won, not only a premiership, but having won one with Louis!! I’ve only ever won one premiership and that was with Megan.

  5. Great stuff Don – in fact inspirational!
    Wish u’d take up rowing!!!

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