There was success for the Illawarra Academy of Sport's hockey side at the recent Academy Games in Wagga Wagga.
The Academy Games - the pinnacle event of the year for all regional academies - was hosted in Wagga Wagga last weekend.
The event showcases some of the state's most talented emerging athletes across seven sports including basketball, cycling, golf, hockey, netball, indoor volleyball and triathlon. The 2023 edition of the tournament welcomed over 1 000 athletes.
The Academy hockey girls got the better of Sydney Metro in an enthralling final - which needed a shootout to decide who would be victorious.
IAS took the lead in the contest however Sydney Metro looked to have broken the hearts of the Illawarra side after scoring on the siren to send the game to a shootout.
However it was IAS that held strong, coming away with the gold medal.
The side's coach Alex Mackay told the Mercury that to win the whole tournament was extremely unexpected but said he always believed in his team.
"It was a pretty tense final," he said.
"I think overall they were pretty excited and ecstatic that they made the final but then they were able to win it. It was a bit of a roller coaster final taking the lead with seven minutes to go and then Metro scoring after the siren.
"So to win the shootout, the girls were pretty ecstatic because they haven't really been close in years gone by."
So to win the shootout, the girls were pretty ecstatic because they haven't really been close in years gone by.- Alex Mackay
The gold medal in Wagga Wagga was Mackay's first as a coach in 10 years at the Academy Games.
"I've done plenty of [coaching] stuff but it was great to see them and all their training come to fruition," he said.
Hosted by the Southern Sports Academy (SSA), the event ran for the second of three years in Wagga Wagga, previously hosted by the Hunter Academy of Sport (HAS) in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
"It's pretty much the pinnacle of being part of the Academy. It's a pretty unique experience," IAS media and communications officer Emily Robinson said.
"It's great for the kids to be able to come away and compete against the other academies and put all the skills and development and training that you've been doing into practise and also to come up against some of the best athletes in the state.
"It was pretty incredible. It was probably a bit above and beyond the expectations so to see the athletes come away with a win was phenomenal. Especially in hockey as the Illawarra has such a rich history in hockey."
There was more success for the IAS at the Games in other sports.
In golf, Sage Laird finished first whilst Samarah Gibson ended as runner up. In cycling, Lucy Allen got up in the U-15 individual time trial as did Cameron Harrison in the U19 ITT.
Harry Ludman came second in the U-19 ITT and third in the road race for the same age bracket. It was a successful weekend for the I'Ons boys, with Harry finishing second in the U-19 ITT and third in the road race, Tom finished second in the U-17 ITT and second in the road race, Charles finished third in the U-17 ITT and Hugo also finished second in the U-15 ITT.
The girls basketball team finished with a silver medal whilst Skye Bell finished on top of the podium in the youth female triathlon. Harry Fraser finished third in the youth male triathlon.
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