NAN Latta admits the Strikers’ stellar season has surprised her.
But now with just four rounds to go the veteran striker said the title and a personal goal-scoring record were well within their reach.
The Hockey Albury Wodonga women sit five points clear at the top of the table ahead of playing fourth-placed Yarra Valley today at home.
A win will all but wrap up the minor premiership.
Latta has scored 30 goals in her 13 state league appearances this year.
She is now two short of her all-time season record but setting her own benchmark at 39 to mirror her age.
But Latta said getting there could be problematic as oppositions increasingly looked to blunt the scoring machine.
“In the second half of the season sides have double-teamed me as the striker,” she said.
“It means the young ones have to do more work, if I’m drawing two people to me then they have the space to run into and that has seen Maddie Horsburgh, Eloise McCormick and Kate Mason all scoring which is great for the team and their individual confidence.
“I’d love to get to 39 but if it means going back into midfield to get the win then that is exactly what I’ll do.”
And the fact is Latta has done it all.
She has represented Australia at under-18 and under-21 level, captained the national over-35s this year and is looking to a veterans world Cup in Amsterdam in the coming 12 months.
Latta said her longevity was in part due to her role as striker — the sports scientist believing had she been a midfielder it might have been a shorter career.
But you sense she might have had a bit to do with it as well.
“This week I’m not going to training in Melbourne and I’m not playing club hockey on Sunday — my body is telling me it needs a rest ahead of the finals,” Latta said.
“But a regular week would see most of us train 1½ hours at least two nights a week, most play Saturday and Sunday, and there is further training in Melbourne for anyone in the state team.
“In the off-season I go to the gym every day, I can’t afford not to, not at my age, it is too hard.
“I do strength work and then when we get closer to the start of the season I go back to cardio.
“I went overseas for seven weeks at the end of last year and I paid for it when I got back into training.”
Latta said the Strikers’ form was in part due to a blend of youth and experience, as well as great team camaraderie.
“At the start of the season it looked like we had a lot of developing to do but it has been a good mix of kids that are willing to listen and senior players who are prepared to work with them,” she said.
“We also have a great team spirit — there is no negativity when we are out there.
“And sometimes the fact that we don’t get upset results in other teams breaking down, mouthing off at each other which is great for us.
“(Coach) Tony Jones is doing a great job he has worked on getting the team back together after losing so many at the end of last year — he is so positive, and it’s all about the team environment.”
Latta said finals intensity was the only potential handbrake to a premiership.
“Finals are very different to the regular season,” she said.
“We have a young side and our opponents will look to exploit that, try and intimidate them on the ball.
“We just need to want the ball more than them, continue to be more aggressive.
“When you are playing at this level it is pretty tough and fast and it is easy to lose confidence so the more experienced players in the team need to give the younger a girls a boost — just play as a team.”