Grand occasion for All Blacks

By Lee Gaskin

A SMASHED window may trigger seven years of bad luck, but All Blacks captain Ryan Schulte is confident his team's fortunes have turned.

After losing the past six grand finals, All Blacks maintained their unbeaten record this season with an easy 5-1 victory against Cities in the Bundaberg Hockey Association Men's Division 1 major semi-final on Saturday.

There was more good news for the club in the division 1 women's competition, as captain Anita Noffke led from the front with a double as they upset minor premiers Raiders 4-1 to advance to the decider.

But the men's game was all one-ay traffic, as goals to Michael Elton, Schulte and Brent Gadischke had them up 3-nil, before Brody Latham hit back before half-time.

Following the break, Cale Cramer scored twice to cap off a performance that Schulte was very pleased with.

"Before the game,we were pretty confident, but it always feels good to make a grand final," Schulte said.

"Cale had a great game, as did William Barritt, and our goal-eeper David Faulkner saved a lot early and hasn't let many in all year.

"We've lost the past six (grand finals), so hopefully we can turn it around."

All Blacks have the luxury of a week off before they find out if they will battle for the title against Cities or Rovers, who advanced to the preliminary final following a nail-biting 3-all draw with Arrows/Athletics.

Meanwhile, a full-strength All Blacks women's team flexed their musclesto keep alive hopes of their third straight premiership, but coach Tony Neller said there was plenty of work to do yet.

"We knew Raiders would be a tough nut to crack, and any one of the three teams left is capable of winning the title," Neller said.

Neller nominated Noffke as "a standout", while he said centre-half Britt Cramer, high-fullback Lauren Schulte and 'keeper Linda Phillips also were outstanding.

Raiders will get a second crack at making the decider when they play Rovers in Saturday's preliminary final, after they drew with Cities 1-all in the minor semi-final.



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