A hat-trick from Goulburn hockey legend Glenn Turner was not enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for the ACT.
Up against NSW, who have now won the Open Men's division 12 times, in the Australian Indoor Hockey Festival grand final at the Illawarra Hockey Stadium on January 7, the ACT was unable to scrape across the line in a nailbiting tie-break.
But they considered themselves lucky to have taken the match to extra time.
Early in the third quarter, NSW scored to put themselves up 5-3, seemingly out of the ACT's reach.
Despite the hosts' lead, the ACT fought back, and it was a last-gasp goal from Turner himself which leveled the scores at 7-7 as the buzzer rang.
The first round of the tiebreak finished at 1-1, with ACT's only goal coming courtesy of that man Turner again, before NSW's Jack Hayes scored the first sudden death goal, which the visitors couldn't match.
The narrow loss, Turner said, hurt the team, but would prove important in years to come.
"I think I made a joke after the final about character building," Turner said.
"[A tight loss] does bring you closer ... you've gotta believe it can be done, and if we can stick together it's gotta happen one day.
"Imagine what it means for those boys who have been around for most of the 12 years. It's what brings you back every year, the little carrot is the thing that gets you out of bed and gets you to training to try and get that elusive win."
Turner's form throughout the tournament was superb. Though he missed the first two games to attend a friend's wedding, he scored a hat-trick on his return against the NSW B side.
Having retired from Australian duties and not played in Hockey One, Turner believes coming into the tournament physically refreshed was crucial.
"To be honest, when you're not playing as much, you come in fresh and I felt fresh," he said.
"And we had a pretty good team, especially with the Staines boys from Goulburn, they make everyone look slow. If you're playing with good players it makes everyone look better."
Though the ACT was unable to best NSW, Turner said his side made "big steps" in the 2020 tournament, and will be a better team for it in years to come.
"As you play more and you get more experience, you realise how big the winning culture is," he said. "In pressure situations, if you've been there and won before, it gives you a little advantage.
"I think we made big steps this year and if we continue this way, we'll be good enough to win even when we're not at our best, which is what you have to be against a machine like NSW.
"We're not quite there yet, but we're getting pretty close."
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