Braithwaite looking for more of the same
If you're a betting person, cricket may be a safer option than hockey this weekend.
Only a brave individual would dare to predict the outcome of tonight's Hong Kong Hockey Association Women's Knockout Competition final between the top teams from the Kowloon Cricket Club and Hong Kong Football Club.
They've played each other three times in the league this season with Club winning the first encounter 1-0, KCC the second 3-2, and, in a one-sided match on Thursday evening, Club 3-0.
That shock result meant that KCC and Club finished the season equal on points, so a playoff has to be scheduled.
Hong Kong coach Mark Bailey had tipped KCC to win both the league and the cup earlier in the week, citing the strength of KCC players such as Kate Wong, Sam McIlwraith, Peta Lee and Grace Yung. SAR goalkeeper Celia Brown also plays for KCC.
The two teams are the strongest in the league, with each including several members of the Hong Kong team that were victorious at the Asian Hockey Federation Cup in Singapore this year.
When they meet at King's Park Hockey Stadium in Jordan at 6.30pm today, the result will likely depend upon the individual match-ups between the top international players, such as KCC striker Sam McIlwraith and Club defender Mel Braithwaite.
On Thursday, Club coach Brad Munt moved Braithwaite from her usual position in midfield to pit her against skilful McIlwraith, a former South Australian state representative and the league's second top scorer this season with more than 15 goals. The switch paid off, with the combination of Braithwaite and an on-fire Adi Glancy shutting the KCC forwards out time and again.
All three Club goals came in the first 15 minutes of that match, while one of KCC's lynchpins, Peta Lee, was still warming up.
'The first 10 or 15 minutes we hit them quite hard,' Munt said. 'Peta, one of their strongest players, didn't come on, so we sort of got on top of it nice and early.'
The HKHA Knockout competition has run for three weeks and involved 32 teams from all five divisions of the league - with the top 16 playing off for the Cup. KCC field four teams in the league, and HKFC seven. The Knockout forms part of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong's Festival of Sport.