The final double header round of the Australian Hockey League (AHL) took place over weekend with the Men’s competition remaining stable while the Women’s points table witnessed significant change in the lead up to the Finals Week. 

In the Men’s competition, the NSW Waratahs remained five points ahead of the second placed Queensland Blades following easy victories over the Vodafone Territory Stingers in Sydney. With 5-0 and 7-1 scores, the Waratahs have also built up a strong goal difference over their competitors which may prove useful for placings in the finals series. 

Dutch international Taeke Taekema was instrumental in the scorelines, with eight successful penalty corner conversions over the weekend. 

Meanwhile the Blades were again unable to achieve maximum points, going down 3-0 to a structured Azuma Vikings team on Saturday in Brisbane, with Alistair McLennan key to the Victorian goal scoring. 

Frustrations were evident in the game as the Blades missed a number of scoring opportunities and green and yellow cards were issued against the Queenslanders. However, the Blades turned tables on the Victorians on Sunday to score their own 3-0 win via an inspirational attacking game with George Clutton and Nathan Eglington taking the goal scoring honours. 

The third placed Adelaide Hotshots again missed the opportunity to climb the ladder as the Canberra Labor Club Lakers pushed them to an extra time victory on Saturday and defeated them on Sunday, giving them only two points for the weekend. 

A close game on Saturday saw the Hotshots come back from a 4-2 deficit at half time to score three goals in the second half and look like they could take maximum points. A late goal by Laker Iain Davidson tied the scores at full time, however the Hotshots fought back with an extra time golden goal from Australian U21 player Joel Dry. The Lakers reversed the result on Sunday, scoring a 3-2 victory in a determined effort from start to finish. 

In Hobart, the SmokeFree WA Thundersticks advanced their campaign with a 2-1 win on Saturday and a 5-1 watershed on Sunday over the MIA Tassie Tigers. While Sunday’s match was an easy victory for the Thundersticks, Saturday’s match was a much closer contest as the two team’s midfielders tussled for the ball. The Tigers inability to capitalise on their numerous penalty corner opportunities provided the winning edge for the Thundersticks. 

The Queensland Scorchers continue to lead the Women’s competition with comprehensive 5-1 and 5-2 victories over the Azuma Vipers in Brisbane on Saturday and Sunday respectively. 

The Queenslanders tore through the Victorian defence in the first half of both games, with top goal scorers Suzie Faulkner and Renae Holmes maintaining the pressure on their opposition’s goal. 

While the Scorchers have built up a significant goal difference of 30 goals with their nearest competitor on a goal difference of 13, they have yet to meet some of the tougher teams and being only three points ahead in the table, they will need to work hard to stay ahead during the finals series. 

In South Australia, the Adelaide Suns kept their dreams of a championship title alive, scoring exciting victories over the Canberra Labor Club Strikers who have sat in second place throughout the competition. A tight match on Saturday saw the teams tie 1-1 at the end of extra time, resulting in a penalty stroke shoot out where the excellent goal keeping by Deanne Gilbert enabled the Suns to take the win. Sunday’s game saw the Suns click into gear with a 4-2 win over the Strikers as Donna-Lee Patrick led the succession of goals from which the Strikers were never able to recover from. 

Meanwhile in Hobart, the SmokeFree WA Diamonds dominated the Wrest Point Van Demons and climbed back into third place, putting on a goal scoring exhibition with 5-1 and 7-0 victories over the Tasmanians.

Jemma Buckley, in her first year of AHL at only 16 years of age, scored an impressive four goals over the weekend, raising the Diamonds chances of retaining the title for the second successive year. 

In the other games over the weekend, the NSW Arrows were able to boost their confidence after two weeks of matches pushed to extra time, by securing good results over the Territory Pearls in Sydney

A 6-1 win on Saturday was followed up by a 6-0 score on Sunday, providing the Arrows with a much needed lift on the points table. New Zealand import Piki Hamahona was on goal scoring fire, with captain Mel Twitt also leading the charge. 

The Men will now meet in Brisbane for the finals series from 28 March to 3 April, while the Women will travel to Canberra for their finals series from 4-10 April.