Rowan Yeo (right), prolific goal scorer. PHOTO/FILE

By Gary Caffell

Dalefield will face a busy schedule when Conference Cup men’s hockey competition matches continue at Park Island, Napier, over Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Three games in as many days will test the fitness and durability of the reigning Wellington premier division champions, but coach Willie Schaefer is optimistic his 16-man squad will rise to the challenge.

“It’s going to be tough but it’s pretty much the same for all teams, we won’t be making any excuses.”

The Conference Cup is in its inaugural year and involves teams from the Capital, Midlands and Central regions.

The primary objective is provide a competition of high quality which helps players to prepare for major tournaments like the national league.

Dalefield and Hutt are the Capital representatives while the other sides, Central West, Central East, Midlands West and Midlands East, are a mix of players from numerous clubs in those particular regions.

The Central teams take in the associations of Taranaki, Whanganui, Horowhenua, Manawatu and Hawkes-Bay, while the Midlands teams takes in the likes of Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Tauranga.

First round games were played a fortnight back with Dalefield romping home 9-2 winners over Central West and producing one of their best performances of the season in the process.

Pleased as he was with that performance, Schaefer is aware that Central West may well be one of the weaker teams in the competition and therefore Dalefield will need to at least replicate, and probably better, that effort to come though this weekend with an unbeaten record.

First up on Saturday they will meet Central East at 11.30am, on Sunday they will do battle with Midlands West at 11am, then on Monday they strike Midlands East, also at 11am.

Schaefer admits to knowing little about the composition of the opposing teams for this weekend but Central East did put up a good showing against Hutt before losing 3-1 in their opening game, and with be all the better for that outing in terms of combinations.

“We’ll get that first game out of the way and then we’ll look at what the other two sides have to offer and perhaps make the odd change or two for when we play them,” Schaefer said.

“But really it will be more a matter of sticking to what is best for us and relying on that to produce the right result.”

Dalefield will be missing three of their regular squad members for the Napier exercise, under-18 reps Wills Taylor and Nathan Whiteman and Phil Arkell, but they have been able to counter their absence by having Daniel Van Woerkom return from overseas and a couple of proven performers at the top levels, Rowan Yeo and Mitchell Blackwood, agreeing to make the trip north.

Yeo, in particular, is a prolific goal scorer who will be expected to make a big impact in that crucial department.

For coach Schaefer success in the Conference Cup is important for Dalefield but it does come secondary to them winning the Wellington premier division title for a third successive time.

Currently they sit on 14 points after three wins and three draws from their six games, equal with Northern United and behind Hutt (19) and Harbour City (16), all of those teams having played seven matches.

“A third Wellington title would be something special but it would be nice to have the Conference Cup alongside it, wouldn’t it?” Schaefer said.