NOT only did Port Macquarie not win a game at the NSW State Hockey titles 12 months ago, they struggled to score goals.
One year on and after overcoming sub-zero temperatures at Bathurst, they completed the climb from the cellar to the penthouse.
Despite the challenging conditions, the under-18 boys division three side held their nerve the longest in a heart-stopping final against Sydney East to register a 1-0 penalty shootout win.
It was that cold in the Central Tablelands that the local chemist ran out of hand warmers. It even snowed less than 100 kilometres away.
In the warm-up, the Port Macquarie team even managed to crack a few of their training balls after they cannoned into the woodwork.
On the field, the scores were locked at 1-all after extra-time before Will Chappell converted the first penalty of the shootout.
It proved to be the winning stroke as goalkeeper Connor Dewbery replicated his heroics from the under-15 state titles in Tamworth.
Coach Michael Harris said Dewbery had done it before.
“We did the same thing in Tamworth and came to a penalty shootout in the grand final,” he said.
“That time we needed to score the last goal and Connor needed to keep the last goal out and he did that.
“I hate it; it’s a horrible way to finish a game.”
The coach admitted he did have some nervy moments during the final, but his side held their composure.
“I did a lot of pacing in the final and in the end we played ugly, but did enough to win,” he said.
Port Macquarie progressed through the tournament undefeated, winning all six games and scoring 20 goals in the process.
I did a lot of pacing in the final and in the end we played ugly, but did enough to win.Coach Michael Harris
They cruised past Central Coast (7-0) in round one, before also keeping Newcastle scoreless (2-0) on day one.
Things were a little tougher for them on day two with wins over North West Sydney (3-1) and Wagga Wagga (3-0).
They then defeated Southern Highlands (3-1) in the semi-final to book their place in the final and a clash with Sydney East.
It completed the trifecta of division three state title wins for the team after they had progressed from the under-13s and under-15s.
Most of the team have come together over the last few years together as a playing group.
It was their effort without the ball where the temperature barely moved above five degrees that pleased the coach the most.
“The boys only conceded three goals in six games,” he said.
“For me, one of the big things was that we only conceded four penalty corners for the entire tournament.
“That’s pretty impressive and showed the opposition found it really hard to penetrate our circle and when they did we were controlled enough to get rid of it really quickly.”
The effort in defence laid the platform for their counter-attack as they had the ability to transition quickly from defence to attack.
“A lot of goals were scored against the run of play,” Harris said.
Meanwhile, Ryan Payne and Ben Harris have been selected in the NSW under-18 squad for the 2019 tournament.
The squad will be finalised early next year.