The disappointment was tangible on the sidelines of Lithgow Hockey Club where Pantherettes gathered to commiserate their grand final defeat by Bathurst City.
After winning three consecutive premierships against City, Panthers conceded their biggest loss of the season to the persistent rivals.
The 5-2 forfeit was a surprising result, given Panthers secured a 2-0 win against City in the major semi-final.
“They knew how to beat us. They changed things up from the semi final, thought about things over that fortnight,” Panthers co-coach Amanda Saladine said.
“We didn’t find our players out there, our structure fell to bits. But we didn’t deserve to lose by that many goals. I think the nerves got the better of us.”
Panthers made a strong start to the contest.
City survived a fifth minute penalty corner and soon after Amanda Saladine launched a powerful strike, stopped by City goalkeeper Maddy Tattersall’s glove.
But on 10 minutes Panthers was rewarded for its early pressure as striker Amelia Leard found the mark from a penalty corner.
However, that goal spurred City into action and five minutes later the Bathurst side had equalised.
That made it 1-all, but when City again launched a quick counter attack two minutes later it took the lead.
This time City’s Jess Hotham worked into the circle, found Kelsey Willott to the left, who then rounded Panthers’ goalkeeper Jess Luchetti and centred the ball for Bec Bosianek to put away.
Bosianek made it 3-1 just before the break when she followed a rebound off the goal post and slotted home.
At half time the Pantherettes geed each other up to close the two goal gap.
But 30 seconds into the second stanza City scored once more, making the score 4-1.
Panthers continued to fight, City’s goalkeeper Tattersall at one stage making a double block off Saladine, but the clock ticked down.
With six minutes left, City’s coach Lisa Quinn put another one in the back of the net.
Panthers’ game tightened in the last ten minutes.
Amelia Leard reduced City’s lead with a goal at 1.44 minutes left. But it was too late for the Panthers. The siren sounded and City’s celebrations began.
“We started off slow and then we finally found our rhythm but it was too late. I think the last ten minutes were the best we played all day,” Amelia Leard said.
Amanda Saladine searched for some consolation.
“We’re a young and upcoming team. We’ll be a force to reckon with for years to come.”