WARRNAMBOOL hockey team Strikers battled to get a side on the field at times this season but is this week celebrating a remarkable premiership.
Strikers upstaged minor premier Pirates 3-2 at Albert Park on Saturday to win the Warrnambool District Hockey Association men’s flag.
Cale Rout, Kirsty Rout and Jason Dart each found the back of the net as the underdogs completed a rags-to-riches season.
Umpires adjudged defender Toby Webb, who had the task of man-marking Pirates gun Dave Murray, as best afield in the decider.
Webb said he was rapt with the triumph. He said his Strikers teammates were confident but he was “cynical” about their chances of victory.
“Pirates have been in the grand final the last three years. Strikers, we finished third on the ladder after the end of the season. We were the underdogs for sure,” he said.
“We had a higgledy-piggledy year. I was working every Saturday. There were three, maybe four of us that played just enough games to qualify for finals.
“Some of us are from out of town, others had to work. It was a pretty good win. I didn’t think we’d get into the final at all, let alone win it.”
Murray opened the scoring for Pirates in the first half, only for Strikers’ Cale Rout to equalise, with the score locked at 1-1 at half-time.
Shaun King restored Pirates’ advantage and the flag favourite seemed headed for victory.
But Kirsty Rout scored with a deflected shot before Jason Dart scored a thunderbolt to snatch back the lead for Strikers.
Pirates found the back of the net with minutes remaining but a call of dangerous play on Paul Wastell meant Shaun King’s shot went unrewarded.
Webb, Cale Rout and Jason Kermond were Strikers’ best, while Wastell and Jason Beveridge led the way for Pirates.
Webb said he felt “more relief than anything” upon hearing the final whistle — “the sun had come out, everyone was wrecked”.
He said Strikers’ ability to move the ball with precision was pivotal to the upset result.
“We moved the ball from the backline to the forward line pretty smoothly and switching around the back was quick and precise,” he said.
“The defence against their attack was nice and strong. We had a fallaway structure which worked pretty well.”