2016 Wagga Hockey premiers know all too well that winning a premiership can leave a thorn in your side for the season to come.
All season, the odds were stacked against defending premier CSU/Rivcoll, but the squad rose from the mire to claim the premiership again on Saturday.
It was a historic day for the club, winning back to back men’s division one premierships for the first time.
Harlequins were true contenders; fighting for the premiership until the dying moments, losing 2-1 in a nailbiter at Jubilee Park.
CSU’s chances looked slim, after just scraping into the grand final and entering the game without last year’s best on ground Bryce Philpott.
Harlequins put CSU’s defence under immense pressure for the first 20 minutes as CSU struggled to get the ball past halfway, let alone into the circle.
CSU keeper Scott Sippel worked overtime to keep a clean sheet in the first half.
Best on ground, CSU’s James ‘Arnotts’ Mason, would have given Sippel the prize.
“He played very, very well to keep us in the game for the first 15 minutes,” Mason said.
“He saved quite a few shots, but what really helped was his structure and the talk, putting us where we needed to be on the pitch.”
CSU defender Hugo Hartley also inspired brilliance in the back line despite the relentless pressure.
Just before half time, Harlequins’ Craig Watson sustained an injury; proving to be a significant blow.
“Look, I think at half time, we knew we had a bit of work to do,” Mason said.
“Everything just went right.
“I scored that goal, it really put them on the back foot.”
Mason ran the ball from the hit-off, dribbling it past Harlequins’ keeper Ben Burdett, stunning the minor premiers.
Ten minutes later, a penalty stroke was awarded to CSU and Mason converted to take a 2-0 lead.
Harlequins replied, also scoring from a penalty stroke by Bradley Watson, narrowing the gap back to one goal.
Once again, the CSU’s defence withstood a pressure-cooker situation, saving successive penalty corners as Harlequins fought on.
It all came down to a final penalty corner after full time.
Harlequins needed to score to force the game into a shoot-out.
But it was CSU’s day.
“Everyone was a really good sport on the pitch,” Mason said.
“A few rival officials congratulated me on the win.”
Mason praised first-year captain coach Jacob Barnsley, who pulled them through a mid-season slump.
“This year we have a younger coach with a lot of technical knowledge,” he said.
“He really hit his stride mid-season.”