Lithgow a top contender in state final

THE TEAM: (Back) Eli Shirt, Taylor Dolbel, Ian Nightingale, Keegan Craig, Ben Redding, Luke Sheppard, Logan Hunter, Trent McDonald, (front) Chris Williams, Jake Lewis, Joss Luka, Kyle Sedger, Greg Nelson and Ben Kelly. Pictures: SUPPLIED.

THE TEAM: (Back) Eli Shirt, Taylor Dolbel, Ian Nightingale, Keegan Craig, Ben Redding, Luke Sheppard, Logan Hunter, Trent McDonald, (front) Chris Williams, Jake Lewis, Joss Luka, Kyle Sedger, Greg Nelson and Ben Kelly. Pictures: SUPPLIED.

Seeded 10th in the Open Men’s NSW State Championships, Lithgow’s team punched far above its weight to finish runner-up in the Division 2 competition. 

The Lithgow Men’s Open Hockey side travelled to Narellan on the June long weekend to compete in the championship event, seeded 10th in the Division 2 competition in Pool B of the draw.

IN ACTION: Les Tippet memorial player of the tournament Eli Shirt. Picture: SUPPLIED.

IN ACTION: Les Tippet memorial player of the tournament Eli Shirt. Picture: SUPPLIED.

The Lithgow side dominated Southern Highland (ranked 4th) in their first match 6-0. Logan Hunter had an outstanding game in goals. 

The second pool game was a much tighter affair against Central West rivals Orange (ranked 2nd); with Lithgow getting away with the win in the last 34 seconds of the match 3-2.

The second day of competition saw the Lithgow side bolstered with the inclusion of Trent McDonald and Ben Redding. 

Both players added to Lithgow’s defensive rotation which was critical to getting the team through the tough demands of the weekend on the players.

Lithgow’s pool matches on day two were very tough encounters, however Lithgow confidently overcame both Metro South West (ranked 6th) 4-2 and Tamworth (ranked 8th) 2-1 to go into day three at the top of Pool B.

The semi-final on day three had Lithgow matched against the strong Illawarra South Coast team. 

Lithgow went into the match confident despite having lost key defender Nathan Mitchell in game four with a torn hamstring. 

The first 15 minutes of the game was dominated by the Illawarra attack who converted a penalty corner in the 16th minute to go to the lead 1-0. 

Lithgow fought their way back into the match with Chris Williams converting a penalty corner in the 24th minute to equalise 1-1.

Lithgow dominated the second half of the match with a string of penalty corners however the game finished a 1-all draw, with Lithgow progressing to the final as they finished top of pool B.

The final matchup for Lithgow was against Sydney Northern Beaches(SNB) (ranked 1st). 

This team had dominated Pool A with a very mobile midfield and forward line. 

The Lithgow boys did not take a backward step and, despite a barrage of penalty corners to SNB in the first 30 minutes, courageously went into the half time break only down 2-0.

The Lithgow team rallied after the break and were rewarded with a goal to Chris Williams off a penalty corner in the 44th minute. 

SNB refused to buckle and converted their own penalty corner in the 48th minute to make the score 3-1. 

Lithgow did not give up and continued to make attacking raids on the SNB circle, with Luke Sheppard slotting two quick goals off penalty corners in the 51st and 53rd minute to lock the game up at 3-all. 

The excitement of the Lithgow contingent was short lived however, with a field goal to SNB in the 55th minute. 

Lithgow went down at the final whistle 4-3.

It was a gallant effort by the Lithgow team following a very tough three day campaign. 

Congratulations to all players for representing their association proudly and displaying great heart and humility in every match. 

All players were outstanding however it was Eli Shirt who was voted by his peers as the MVP for an exceptional weekend on the pitch and was justly rewarded with the Les Tippett Memorial Award as Lithgow’s player of the tournament.

Thank you to the coach of this year’s open team, John Mitchell, for organising and preparing the team for the competition and for helping restore the pride in the jersey.

Thank you to Greg and Lee Nelson of Lithgow Tyre Service for their sponsorship and support of the team.

Congratulations also to Logan Hunter who, following the weekend’s competition was selected in the State Under 21 Squad, and to Luke Sheppard who was selected in the NSW Country Team.

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