Norths back on top after dramatic showdown
HAVING shared in Norths' previous 2016 A-Grade grand final success, captain Steven Ihle and senior player Jeremy Dalais were wondering when the club's next major victory would come.
It arrived at the Ipswich Hockey Complex last night in a drama-charged and at times fiery clash with minor premiers Hancocks.
Norths finally emerged victorious 3-1 when Luke Randle scored the final goal from a penalty corner after the full-time siren.
Until then, either team could have won in an end-to-end struggle that characterised previous games against each other this season.
However, the competition-leading, mid-season final winning and Combined Competition champion Hancocks outfit had to battle on for more than half the game with 10 men.
In a rare grand final incident, Sam Dobbie received a red card, charged with grabbing an opposing player.
His departure enhanced the already difficult challenge for Hancocks, who toiled manfully until Norths finally got ahead with six minutes left when a super pass from Zac Profke set up Dean Jeffrey to score.
Profke, who earlier umpired in the Reserve Grade men's final won 3-2 in extra time by Wests, locked up the top division decider 1-1 after converting a penalty stroke in the second quarter.
The ever-busy Carter Chappell scored the opening goal of the game for Hancocks.
With tensions simmering between the teams, the Devils finished stronger to reclaim top spot on the grand final podium.
"We've had a number of years being in the grand final but it's been three years since we won a grand final,'' Dalais said, having shared in four previous deciders.
"Hancocks have been dominant the last few years so it was really good to get the win tonight.''
After a "typical Norths season'' battling to field the same side each week, Ihle was also delighted to share the winning feeling again.
"The previous ones, Norths had a really good team and we started winning straight away,'' Ihle said. "This year we had to really work for it.''
The victory was also a reward for Norths' injection of youth in recent seasons.
"We have a lot of young fellas in the team now,'' Dalais said.
"I think myself, Zac (Profke), Deano (Dean Jeffrey) and Steve (Ihle) are probably the oldest at the moment. About 27 is probably the oldest now.
"We have a very young team so hopefully we can keep going for a few more years.''
Despite having an advantage with Hancocks reduced to 10 men, Ihle said the win of second-placed Norths was built on ignoring the crowd and "keeping their head in the game''.
"They (Hancocks) kept on coming at us the whole game so credit to them to play as well as they did with the 10 men,'' the Norths skipper said.
Norths goalkeeper Cian McLaughlin was the standout performer in the final, repelling penalty corner shot after shot from the powerful Hancocks' attacking formation.
Hancocks defender Kai Douglas also had an outstanding game, being named player of the final.
Look out for more terrific grand final photos online and in your QT through the week.
A-Grade men's grand final: Norths 3 (Zac Profke, Dean Jeffrey, Luke Randle) def Hancocks 1 (Carter Chappell).
Player of the final: Kai Douglas (Hancocks).