Hawks Double Glory at Coopers Stadium
The Adelaide Hills Hawks Senior team topped off an amazing season with a hard fought 3-1 win in extra time against the Vipers on Sat. In a game, that had many twists and turns the Hawks showed great character in hot conditions, to prove beyond doubt that they were the best team in State League 2 this season.
The starting line-up of Connor Hudson in goals, defenders Nick Walker, Nathan Elliott, Lewis Coulls and Mackenzie Hyder, Midfielders Craig Smith, skipper Jake Loechel, Danny Pauli and Luke Smith and forwards Lewis Farquhar and Daniel Hosking knew that the heat and the size of the pristine Coopers Stadium were going to be a challenge on the day. Coach Craig Leith also was blessed to have a very handy bench with Callum Hutchins (returning from injury), Abel Thomas – Hy, Sam Bowman, Jake Pollard and reserve keeper Travis Brookes all giving great depth to the squad.
In a tentative start, both sides started nervously giving away possession but the hawks settled the better and were in the lead 20 minutes into the game when Pauli found Hosking with a great pass. He finished with great expertise and he slotted the ball inside the right side of the post much to the delight of the large contingent of Hawks supporters at the ground.
This lifted the Hawks and they began to gain ascendency in the middle of the park. The premiers were struck a blow when talented youngster Hyder succumbed to a hamstring injury just before the break and was replaced by Thomas-Hy who slotted into the role of left back in confident fashion.
The break couldn’t come soon enough for both teams so that they could get some respite from the heat. The message from the coaching staff was to move the ball quicker when in possession in order to move Vipers around and to make sure that the midfield gave the opposition little time and space on the ball. In another blow to the Hawks, substitute Thomas-Hy succumbed also to a hamstring injury so coach Craig Leith, introduced Hutchins into the fray and reshuffled his charges to maintain the balance in the team.
Vipers began to lift and on the 65 minute mark dangerous midfielder Nick Stefanopoulous eluded his marker to slot the ball inside the post and the balance of the game changed dramatically in Vipers way. Leith then put on the experience Sam Bowman up from for a tiring Craig Smith who had given his all for the Hawks. It was Bowman’s first appearance in the senior team since Round 4 as he struggled with injuries and being away overseas for his wedding. It was a welcome return for the goal machine.
Both teams fought it out to the end of normal time ready to do battle in extra time. Bowman weaved his magic to score in the first stanza of extra time with a calm finish in the fourth minute of extra time. This lifted the Hills and frustrated the Vipers as they were reduced to 10 men after Alexi Georgakopoulous was sent off for his second yellow card.
The game then opened up for the hawks and on the 108 minutes mark Bowman was felled in the box by keeper Sonny Calabria and the Hawks were awarded a penalty. Hosking expertly slotted the ball into the net to send the Hawks faithful into raptures. Talented youngster Pollard was then introduced into the game so he could savour the moment and was an instant shot in the arm for a tiring hawks unit. As the final whistle sounded, a euphoria erupted amongst the Hawk family and the magical double was a reality.
In a day of great emotion, with both Luke Smith and Lewis Coulls retiring as exemplary servant to the club and talented goalkeeper Connor Hudson being awarded his 100 senior game mug. It was a fitting end to an outstanding season. The awards kept coming as Nathan Elliott was awarded Man of
the Match. The second time the club legend has done so. Elliott was also awarded FFSA life membership on the day. The first time a Hawks player has done so. It was an outstanding achievement for this one club man, a rarity in this day and age and a fitting end to a magical day.
Elliott and Hudson were difficult to separate as best on ground as the young keeper kept the Hawks in the contest with several world class save while Elliott steered the ship in emphatic fashion in a calm and classy manner. Pauli was also outstanding in midfield and the contribution by Bowman was telling in the end as the Hawks ended their stellar season.