NSW Country gun and Lithgow Panthers star Amelia Leard rode the roller coaster ride that is grand final emotion on Saturday.
Her young Panthers side turned to her with the women's Premier League Hockey grand final on the line and, although secretly terrified of the moment, stepped up in the clutch to bag the match-defining goal and help Lithgow secure the 2019 title with a 2-1 victory over Orange CYMS.
Leard banged home her side's seventh and final short-corner shot of the decider with six minutes to go, handing her side the lead for the first time in the game.
From there the Lithgow girls scrambled over the course of the final six minutes of the 2019 season to hang on to the slim advantage but ultimately secure this year's crown, the club's first since 2016.
And Leard, well she's just glad she was on deck to ice the deciding moment.
"I was pretty excited when I got that goal, really bloody nervous when I knew it was coming to me," she laughed.
"We're all so excited. We practice short corners a lot at training and I've only been back for the last few weeks, so it was a good feeling."
CYMS started the game phenomenally, dictating terms from the outset and that domination translated into a first-quarter goal to Madie Smith.
Coach David Marshall implored his side to wrestle back some of the ascendancy in the second term, and his Panthers girls responded in earnest.
Panthers shot out of the blocks in the second quarter and earned back-to-back short corners on the 18-minute mark, the second of which Rylee Millar got a touch on to draw the decider level at 1-all.
The match ebbed-and-flowed from then on, but by and large Panthers' dominated the key moments.
CYMS has probably been the most consistent side all year but I always had faith if we played to a high standard we'd win it.Lithgow Panthers coach Dave Marshall
The visitors earned the first four short corners of the second half, and Leard's telling blow came on the back of the fourth with just six minutes left on the clock.
The visitors both applied and handled pressure brilliantly, and in the end that proved the difference.
Lithgow finished the regular season in third place and had to secure a win in the final round of the regular season to do so.
Leard said playing sudden-death hockey for a month straight meant Panthers arrived in Orange knowing they'd handle the occasion.
"I think we were confident in our preparation," Leard said.
Marshall agreed, and added the pain of losing last year's grand final to St Pat's was a handy little motivator to fall back on as well.
"I think the last three or four weeks have been our best hockey all year," Marshall said.
"We stepped up. We were more intense, and with a full squad for the last few weeks we really showed what we can do. Today was an example of that.
"We definitely deserved to be here and anything can happen on the day. CYMS has probably been the most consistent side all year but I always had faith if we played to a high standard we'd win it."
- LITHGOW PANTHERS 2 (Amelia Leard, Rylee Millar) def ORANGE CYMS 1 (Madie Smith)
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