Northland's over-35 women's hockey team has taken home gold after winning six consecutive games at the national masters hockey tournament in Hamilton last weekend.
The team, which featured two former Black Sticks players: Anna Alexander and Laura Douglas, dominated their division after a tough first game against Central ended in a 0-0 draw. The team convincingly beat the sides from Canterbury, Otago and Auckland with their only other draw coming against Tauranga/Bay of Plenty.
In the final, Northland really hit their stride, putting in a complete performance against Tasman and winning 4-0. It showed a real improvement from the over-35 division team as in the 2016 tournament in Nelson, Northland scored only one goal and came last.
The tournament featured players of all ages with divisions going up to over-65. Five other Northland teams went down to the competition, the women's over-50 and over-60 teams being the best of the rest, finishing third and fourth respectively.
Two Northland players, Jessie Radford and Sarah Morris, were selected in the national women's over-35 team on the back of their performances from the week-long tournament.
"The whole team really gelled in the last two games they played," coach Adam Taylor said.
"They really could have played another couple of games and it would've gotten better from there."
After a difficult start where the team went into the first game with one player missing, Taylor said the group pulled themselves together and progressed well as a unit.
"They pretty much coached themselves and anything that went wrong after that, they found their own solution so I didn't have to do too much."
Both Radford and Alexander were joint-second top-scorers in the division with four goals apiece. Taylor, who had coached the side twice before, credited the impressive displays from the pair, but said the division win was a team effort.
"Once you put Jessie up the top, she's in on everything and Anna would just take the ball from halfway right up the turf, her dribbling skill is amazing to watch.
"Two players can't win a tournament but they do make a step towards controlling the game."
Up against traditionally-talented hockey regions like Auckland and Canterbury, Northland thrived under the pressure and came out as victors despite only six weeks of training together as a team.
"Unfortunately for those teams, we were starting to gel as a unit so they didn't stand much of a show."
Other Northland teams to attend the tournament were the women's over-40 team and the men's over-40 and over-45 teams who didn't make the top three in their respective divisions.