Following their selection in the Victorian squad earlier in the year, Gunners Xavier McBain and Molly Wilmott attended the National Country Nationals last month.
Arriving in Sydney on the 3rd of August, the Men and Women’s squad started preparation early. Chris Vanghan, Men’s coach and former La Trobe University Hockey Club player and winner of the 2014 Best & Fairest wanted to ensure the team had a balance of training and sight seeing before their first game against the Australian Defense Force.
The relatively new team, made up of seven new players this year were young and lacked experience together on the field, but this would be balanced with their pace and fitness. The Men picked up a win in the first game, and although physically tough walked away with a 2-1 lead. Up against Queensland next, the team faced a strong short corner battery letting through four, resulting in a 0-6 loss. The intensity of the games, and the fact they often only had half a day between games was starting to catch up to the younger squad.
Up next against Western Australia the Victorian boys performed well, taking home a 3-1 win. This was followed by another dominating performance against South Australia where they ended up winning 7-0.
With a day to rest the squad relaxed and attended a high ropes course, preparing for their next game in the Round Robin against NSW. The game, while close in skill, suffered with New South Wales scoring two goals early and walking away with the game 1-3.
With the Round Robin over, the Victorian team finished 3rd and were up again against QLD. With a fully recovered team, they beat them in a tight and physical game 2-1. Xavier scored the first goal in his best performance for the week, giving the team an early advantage.
The win meant, for the second time since 2001, the Victorian team would play in the Grand Final. This time, against NSW who were going for their third consecutive win of the Championship. The exciting game was full of opportunities, but resulted in a nil all draw at full time.
Ultimately it came down to shootouts where the team unfortunately lost 2-4, but still walked away with a Silver medal which is an incredible effort.
The girls, had an even better week, walking away as Champions and the Gold medal around their neck. More reporting to come soon..
Xavier McBain, at the end of the Championship said:
It was a great two weeks away with a great bunch of guys and girls. The experience of being away and playing some great hockey are some of the best weeks I’ve had. The relationships you build and solidify within these week are ones I’ll keep for the rest of my life.