Lithgow Panthers have won their eleventh premiership, but a victory wasn’t looking likely at half time. Panthers made an exciting come back led by Nic Milne into a nail-biting penalty shoot out.
Panthers emerged with a 3-1 result.
“Any way you win is a win. If they beat us they’d say it too,” Panthers coach David Marshall said.
“I feel stoked, ecstatic. Especially with that come back.”
Souths men have not won a grand final since 2007 when they beat Lithgow Panthers 3-2. Since then Souths have lost four deciders to Panthers, including last year at a grand final in Lithgow.
“It is a terrible way to lose, but look, it was a great game,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.
Panthers also had the season’s statistics on their side, beating Souths at their two meetings this year.
But it was Souths that made the stronger start to the match. Just three minutes into the game Souths’ Nathan Burke slotted home on the left post.
At the 10 minute mark Souths doubled its advantage off a penalty corner play, Nick McEwen deflecting Jono Cole’s effort from the top of the circle into the net.
Panthers did have its chances in the first half – the best coming with just under 30 minutes gone as Souths goalkeeper knocked the ball off Taylor Dolbel’s stick in a one-on-one.
Souths also survived a Panthers penalty corner to go to the break ahead 2-0.
However, Panthers came out in the second half with renewed determination.
Nic Milne, fresh from winning gold at the Australian Country Championships, led the comeback as he not only made penetrating runs through the midfield, but was brilliant on penalty corner plays.
He opened scoring for Panthers with 27 minutes left, then bagged a pair from penalty corners to give the defending champions a 3-2 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining, Souths needed to lift. They did.
With 2.27 left on the clock, Daniel Carter dived full length to connect with a McEwen cross to lock it up.
That was how it stayed until the full-time siren. There was no goal in the 14 minutes of extra time.
It saw the need for a penalty shoot-out and just as they had done in the major semi-final against St Pat’s a fortnight earlier, Panthers held their nerve.
Matt Johnson found the mark for Souths, but the rest of the Souths’ men were shut down by Panthers goalkeeper Logan Hunter.
Brandon Horner, Taylor Dolbel and Nic Milne scored for Panthers to hand their side victory.
Brandon Horner, who missed the finals last year, was elated.
“It was a nice game to play and a good strong show from the opposition,” he said.