When Hockey ACT won the right to host the finals of this year’s Hockey One series, there were fingers crossed that at least one Canberra team would be in the playoffs.
That optimism was justified on Friday night when the Canberra Chill women’s team qualified for the semi-finals with a nail-biting 2-1 victory over Melbourne.
Canberra needed to win to qualify for the finals.
At full-time, Hockey ACT officials breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The Chill finished third on the ladder after winning five in a row, following a first-round 4-1 loss to the Perth Thundersticks. This was to be the only defeat for the Chill in the regular season ahead of the finals.
In this Saturday afternoon’s semi-final at the National Hockey Centre in Lyneham, the Chill will play last year’s champions, NSW Pride.
Canberra heads into the sudden-death playoff with a certain amount of confidence, having beaten the Pride 5-2 in the regular season.
In a further boost to the Chill’s prospects, Hockey ACT officials are predicting a record crowd, the vast majority of whom will support the Canberra team.
The spectator numbers at Lyneham this season for Chill games have been unprecedented. But this is not just a Canberra phenomenon – it’s happening across the entire league.
For the round against NSW, 2282 people crammed into the National Hockey Centre to watch an entertaining game.
Hockey ACT CEO Rob Sheekey said there is plenty of optimism that the record will be broken this weekend, especially with the Chill women playing in the semi-finals.
It’s been a significant turnaround for the Chill women after missing out on the finals in 2022. Recruiting international players has been critical, as has the leadership of former Hockeyroos players Naomi Evans, Edwina Bone and Kalindi Commerford.
Their success has generated interest in the sport in Canberra to rival the 2005 Women’s Champions Trophy staged at Lyneham. It will reach fever pitch if the Chill makes it to Sunday’s final.
Parochialism aside, the calibre of players this weekend is world-class, with Kookaburras and Hockeyroos littered through the men’s and women’s finals teams. If you’ve never seen professional hockey, this weekend will be hard to top.
The Hockey One semi-finals start at 11 am on Saturday, 25 November; the grand final is on Sunday, 26 November, from 11:30 am. Get your tickets from Intex.