Raw emotion in Thistles victory
THE tears flowed after Thistles surprised Ipswich Hockey's junior team of the year to win a nail-biting grand final.
Long-serving Thistles club president Pauline Alchin was thrilled for her emotion-charged D Grade girls' team. She wiped away a few tears as the young players embraced each other after their stunning victory.
Thistles won a dramatic grand final 3-2 after shootouts were needed to split the Ipswich competition's top two sides.
Thistles' opponents Wests were earlier selected as top junior side for their sportsmanship and efforts.
Wests were minor premiers and mid-season winners, scoring 117 goals and only conceding six heading into the finals.
However, Thistles saved their best until last, coming from a goal down to force extra-time and the pressure-cooker shootouts.
Although being a tough way for either team to lose, it was valuable experience for both sides.
"It's fantastic,'' Thistles coach Erin Alchin said of her team's reward.
"It's a really proud moment to finally win the season . . . to knock off the (previously) undefeated Wests side.''
She praised players like goalkeeper Emily Noga for their defensive commitment against a quality Wests' combination.
"She came in after half a season because we didn't have a goalie,'' the coach said. "She was phenomenal.''
Alchin's message before the final was to have fun.
"They just did it for each other and we played so well and really, really had a go. It came off,'' she said.
The closest second-placed Thistles had come to competition pacesetters Wests during the season was 3-1.
However, in the testing shootouts, the Thistles' girls handled the pressure to convert two of their opportunities.
The team celebrated post-final in the dressing room by signing each other's Thistles' shirts to look back on for seasons to come.
"They are wonderful girls, all got along, really good friends,'' Alchin said.
"They have been so easy and such a pleasure to coach this year, no dramas. They are always keen and ready to listen and have a go.
"They always tried their heart out throughout the year.''
Five of the Thistles' girls were also in the Ipswich under 13 representative team Alchin coached this year.
Raceview school teacher Erin is daughter of Pauline and knows much heart and soul her mother has put into the club.
"It was nice for her to be watching myself do it and having the younger ones involved and junior Thistles girls helping out,'' Erin said.
After Thistles were runners-up last year, their latest success was their first in D Grade for some time.
"It's really good for the club and they are a great group of girls that are coming up, which is momentum,'' Erin said.
"Hopefully they'll keep going as the years go and stay with us.''
Meanwhile, Ipswich junior player of the year Victoria Heffernan is playing in the A2 grand final for Bellbowrie against Thistles on Friday night.
Up and coming talent Victoria, 14, has already represented Ipswich and Queensland at under 15 level.