Dalefield’s Nick Finlayson (left) taking on a Harbour City opponent in a Wellington premier division match at Clareville last weekend. Dalefield won 3-2. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV.
By Gary Caffell
As double headers go it couldn’t be much more difficult.
The Farriers Dalefield men’s hockey squad will almost certainly become the inaugural holders of the Conference Cup if they beat two formidable rivals this weekend, Hutt at the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington tomorrow and Mid Central at Clareville on Sunday.
The Conference Cup involving teams representing the Capital, Central and Midlands associations is a big deal.
Its primary objective is to give aspiring rep players more games leading into the national hockey league.
Capital are represented by the finalists in last year’s Wellington premier division competition, Dalefield and Hutt, Central by Mid Central (Manawatu), Central West (Taranaki, Wanganui and Horowhenua) and Central East (Hawke’s Bay) and Midlands by two teams, Midlands East and Midlands West, drawn from Waikato, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, Counties-Manukau and Thames Valley.
Going into this weekend’s matches, unbeaten Hutt leads the points table from Dalefield, who have had just the one loss.
For Dalefield, the scenario is simple — beat Hutt and Mid Central and they are very likely to take away the major spoils.
That’s because even if they finish with the same points as Hutt, their goals differential should be enough to tip the scales in their favour.
Adding further interest to the Hutt match is that it also doubles as a Wellington premier division game and with Hutt currently sitting at the top of points table with 23pts from six wins and two draws and Dalefield second on 21pts from five wins and three draws, a win to Dalefield would also take them to a clear lead in a competition they won for the first time in 2015 and then repeated in 2016.
You only need to take a quick look at their stats for this season to conclude that neither Dalefield or Hutt can justifiably claim favouritism for tomorrow’s encounter.
Their first-round Wellington premier division match ended in a draw and, remarkably, they have scored the same number of goals, 43, and conceded the same number as well, nine.
Not surprisingly, Dalefield coach Willie Schaefer is anticipating a battle royal from a Hutt side who can usually be depended on to do the basics well.
“They are not a flashy side but they are very structured in defence and generally make the most of their scoring opportunities . . . you have to play well to beat them.”
The fact Dalefield will be without gun defender Trent Lett is a blow but with Daniel van Woerkom and Joe Stelini both starring in that area in recent games, Schaefer is confident that even without a player of his calibre Dalefield won’t be found lacking there.
And he is also confident that other players who have performed on the big stage in the past such as Dane Lett and Benedict van Woerkom will be inspirational leaders with the stakes so high.
“If you look at the two teams in terms of playing depth I think we have the edge and hopefully that will count in the end.”
Schaefer knows too, however, that while a win over Hutt would be a huge morale booster for Dalefield going into Sunday’s match (noon start) with Mid Central at Clareville, they will have to again play right to their potential to secure a victory there.
“Mid Central are virtually the Manawatu rep side and they won’t be easy . . . no way.
“It’s a very quick turnaround for another tough game, we certainly can’t take anything for granted,” Schaefer said.
The Farriers Dalefield women’s team also face a stiff assignment when they play Harbour City in a Wellington premier division match at the National Hockey Stadium tomorrow.
Harbour City have won eight from eight and sit top of the points table with 26pts, 5pts clear of defending champions Dalefield who have 21pts from six wins, one draw and one loss.
Coach Michael O’Connor said the retention of possession for long periods would be vital for Dalefield as Harbour City had three or four very talented players sure to make a big impression on the game if they were regularly allowed to carry the ball forward.
“We have to close their stars down, do that and we can pull it off,” O’Connor said.