FOURTH time lucky – after three consecutive years of heartbreak on grand final day, Bathurst City is hoping 2017 will see them crowned women’s Premier League Hockey champions.
Standing in City’s way this Saturday is the side that has beaten them those last three years – Lithgow Panthers – an outfit which is just as hungry for more success.
Panthers won its maiden women’s title in 2012 after beating City in extra-time and its record over the Bathurst side in finals since then has been impressive.
In 2014 Panthers toppled City 4-2 then 12 months later, went back-to-back with a 3-1 result against the same rival.
Last year it was once more Panthers who tasted glory with a 4-2 result.
City coach Lisa Quinn was at the helm for the two most recent defeats, but she is determined to see her side prevail in Lithgow on Saturday.
Still, she knows it will require her side to produce its best hockey.
“I definitely respect Panthers, they are a well-drilled, clean team. They always show good sportsmanship and it’s always a good battle,” she said.
“How do you get on top of Panthers? That’s the miracle question, if I knew the answer to that, we’d be on top of them every game.
“The fact they are so versatile and they change their game up, it makes them hard to beat.
“That is the million dollar question and if I did know the answer we’d be beating them each and every game, so we’ve got to stick to our game plan and hopefully that will be enough.”
On the way to finishing the regular season as minor premiers, City locked horns with Panthers on two occasions.
City won the first of those meetings 4-1 in Bathurst, while the second was a 3-all draw.
In the opening week of the final series, City and Panthers squared off once more in the first grand final qualifier.
Panthers pulled off the rare feat of keeping City scoreless, producing a 2-0 win which saw them earn hosting rights for this year’s grand final.
It was a loss that left City disappointed, but Quinn’s side responded with a 3-0 preliminary final victory over St Pat’s to get another title shot.
The line-up City will field on Saturday is slightly different to last year’s, Quinn feeling the addition of players such as Jess Hotham, Kelsey Willott and Kristen Howard has made them stronger.
Still, the coach is also aware the changes to Panthers’ line-up makes them a formidable opponent as well.
“There’s no doubt that we have played some sensational hockey this year and if we can be at our best, I’m confident that we can win,” Quinn said.
“I definitely still think this is City’s year. We gained some senior players this year and it’s the best hockey that I think we have been playing in the three years that I’ve been coaching.
“They’ve [Panthers] lost a little bit of experience, but they have picked up a few whippets that run quite well. Those young kids, they run fast and they run hard and are willing to fight and they are determined.
“They have really stepped up this season, from the first time we’ve played them to the last time we’ve played them, those young kids just get better and better.
“They are definitely a threat … it will be a very good game of hockey.”
Just as Quinn has confidence in her players, Panthers mentor Cheryn Van-Veen believes Panthers has the talent to prevail.
“We know we can beat them. As long as we play to our game and don’t let them control it,” she said.
“They do play a similar game to us, although they play a lot more through the midfield. We’re going to stick to our game.”
After missing the last fortnight with NSW Country representative commitments, goalkeeper Maddy Tattersall and forward Willott will return for City.
Sunday’s grand final will get underway at 1.30pm.