Tasmania wins dramatic penalty shootout in gold-medal game at Australian under-21 hockey championships

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: Tasmania shares a special moment during the presentations of their gold-medal win from the Australian under-21 hockey final on Wednesday against Victoria in Sydney. Picture: Click in Focus
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: Tasmania shares a special moment during the presentations of their gold-medal win from the Australian under-21 hockey final on Wednesday against Victoria in Sydney. Picture: Click in Focus

Tasmania has held onto its nerve in the clutch moments to win a groundbreaking first gold medal on Wednesday at an Australian under-21 hockey championship. 

The dramatic final win over Victoria came on the back of a 3-2 penalty shootout.

Goalkeeper Mitch Nicholson saved the last two shots on goal in Sydney to secure the state’s maiden title.

The scores were locked at 1-1 after 60 minutes of play.

Captain Jack Welch struck back for Tasmania in the 37th minute to score his fourth tournament goal after Victoria had taken the lead earlier in the first half.

Ecstatic Tasmanian coach Colin Pearson could not speak highly enough of his team’s never-say-die attitude.

“They were worked exceptionally hard,” Pearson said.

“Some of our guys didn’t get a rest for the 60 minutes – that’s a big ask at this level. 

“Some of the guys deserve a huge amount of credit.

“We defended really well and our penalty-corner defence was just excellent.”

Victoria had been up one goal in the penalty shootout after three attempts.

But Tasmanians Hayden Beltz and OIiver Smith both scored next and Nicholson blocked the Victorians twice.

Rob Chapman saved two short corner shots on the line late in regulation time. 

Launceston-based Pearson said he had faith in the group that had mostly been together for five years.

They had won an under-16 bronze back in 2013 followed by silver at under-18 level.

“They’re just a very tenacious group – they just never give up,” Pearson said.

Tasmania benefited from a generous new finals format.

They lost all three pool games, but bounced to come from 3-1 behind to beat New South Wales in a shootout during the quarter-final.

“That did give us an opportunity, but the boys were also good enough to take it,” Pearson said.