Scorched to ultimate glory

July 12, 2017

SYC goalkeeper Jack Greig is in the perfect position to block a Shepparton Strikers shot, gaining support from teammate Jono Neilsen in the season decider on Sunday.

Nathan McBain fires off a pass during the Strikers grand final victory.

SYC's Ryan McKenzie starts a chain of play into attack.

Strikers' Chris Mills and SYC's Trent Popelier race to the ball.

SYC's Matt Higgins tries to gain control and pass off while under the pump.

SYC's Dylan Duncan makes a split second decision as Strikers player Evan Collins gives chase.

Well deserved: SYC reaped the benefits of a super Regional Hockey League season by defeating Shepparton Strikers in the grand final on Sunday.

Barely a flaw could be found in Shepparton Youth Club’s performance that brought it this year’s Regional Hockey League premiership.

The club reflected its new nickname the Scorchers as the men ran red hot against Shepparton Strikers on Sunday.

In a tense opening half, the Strikers gained the early break through James McBain after an outstanding shot from the prolific goal-scorer.

McBain went on a run and tussled one-on-one with SYC goalkeeper Jack Greig, with a clean stroke finding the back of the net.

With the Strikers the only team to score in the first half, SYC was clearly in the match with both teams evenly matched.

SYC playing coach Matt Irwin said his side felt confident at half-time about turning the scoreline in its favour.

‘‘For the first half the game was very level and we might have even had a bit more of the play, but (in) the second half we played how we like to play and the three goals were reward for our effort,’’ he said.

The Scorchers played with intent to level the scores five minutes into the second half.

Strikers player and club president Evan Collins said losing the lead so early unnerved his team.

‘‘The first half was really good, we were happy with the way we started the match ... we got the first goal and it was quite good going into half-time,’’ he said.

‘‘They equalised in the first five minutes and we were a bit rattled after that and they got the momentum and the confidence and we couldn’t go with them, once they got in front, we couldn’t get back in the game.’’

The ever present performers in brothers Jono and Michael Nielsen each scored a goal for SYC, as did Irwin.

With a full list available, Irwin was able to rotate through 16 players and he said all of his players genuinely contributed to the grand final win.

‘‘In general it was just a really good team effort, I know everyone says that, but it took me about an hour to figure out who I was going to vote for (for the best), there was a wide spread of who I could select,’’ he said.

For the Strikers, usual suspects Tim Russell and Brad Winzer stood up as did Ben Harman, with Collins saying his side would focus on running out the rest of its matches.

The side looks to remain competitive in the Goulburn Valley Hockey Association with the Strikers and SYC to meet again this weekend.

‘‘We were just settled and we didn’t let them get on top of us early and were playing to our strengths and moving the ball quite well and using our numbers with the ball and were quite happy with it, so we’ll be trying to do it this weekend,’’ Collins said.

The pair played each other at the start of the season in a much different climate, slogging it out in temperatures of more than 30°C with that match resulting in a 3-3 draw.

But Irwin said it was much better playing conditions on Sunday.

‘‘It was definitely a heaps better temperature to play a winter sport, but it was really good, a lot easier to run out a game, but that goes for both teams,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve definitely got a few things to work on for the rest of the season, but that’s how we want to play and if we keep playing hard, it should be a good year.’’

Strikers star Xavier McBain was named best-and-fairest of the Regional Hockey League season.

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