Australia’s largest hockey states have once again achieved the top four positions in the Australian Hockey League to secure semi finals berths irrespective of results in tomorrow’s final round of matches.
However the final order is yet to be determined, with the match between the Azuma Vikings and SmokeFree WA Thundersticks likely to be a key clash.
The teams from VIC, NSW, QLD and WA have gained sufficient points to ensure that the lower placed teams cannot catch them, despite a late surge from Tasmania and determined performances from South Australia. The lower placed teams will however be playing hard to rise to the highest position possible, while also providing their upcoming talent with an excellent development experience.
The Azuma Vikings quietly slipped into second place yesterday after defeating the Lakers, proving they may well have the potential to challenge the AHL title, having finished 3rd and 4th in the past two years. Their final round game is however certain to be a tough tussle as they meet last year’s runner up, the SmokeFree WA Thundersticks.
The Thundersticks have displayed mixed form this season, but with wins in their past five games, including a superb defeat of the Queensland Blades, the West Australians have shown that they still have the drive and determination to reach another final.
This match will be of even more importance to the teams should the Blades and NSW Waratahs win their matches earlier in the day – the eventual fourth-placed team would then meet the Blades in the semi final, a clash all teams will wish to avoid.
Meanwhile the Blades are back in front of the charge towards a third consecutive AHL title. The Blades defeated the previously table-topping Waratahs last night in a thrilling match that went to extra time, regaining the top spot before they meet the Canberra Labor Club Lakers tomorrow night.
The Lakers have experienced mixed results throughout the competition and have lost their last two games in extra time. With the cutting edge of the Blades shining through again, helped along by the return of brilliant goal scorer Jamie Dwyer, the Lakers will need to bring out a stellar effort to stop them in their tracks.
Meanwhile, the NSW Waratahs will meet the Adelaide Hotshots, with both teams struggling in their games this week, following a dream run throughout the earlier rounds. The Waratahs played brilliantly throughout the home and away rounds, dropping only one game in the first four double header matches, and currently have the top goal scorer of the season, Dutch international Taeke Taekema.
Combined with Olympians Michael McCann and Brent Livermore, NSW look to be the stronger team, however the MIA Tassie Tigers have shown this week that the flowers can wither, after dishing out a defeat to the Waratahs in round five.
In the other match of the day, the Tigers will meet the Vodafone Territory Stingers with both teams aiming to climb the points ladder. The Tigers have had a high adrenalin week with two victories and a win over the Stingers would give them the chance to move into fifth or sixth position, depending on the outcome of the Hotshots and Lakers games.
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