Benedict van Woerkom on the ball in Dalefield’s first-round win over Hutt United. PHOTOS/FILE

Hutt United will test Dalefield women

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

If there is one person well-positioned to judge the prospects of the Dalefield teams in Saturday’s first round of the Wellington men’s premier division playoffs, it’s Benedict van Woerkom.

The attacking midfielder has played in all three championship-winning teams since 2015 and has also turned his hand to coaching, assisting with the women’s team.

Both teams will play Hutt United in the one-versus-two playoffs on Saturday, with the winners going direct to the finals on September 26, and the losers facing a sudden-death game against the winners of the third-versus-fourth playoff.

The men have won all 12 preliminary games this season and boast 5-3 and 2-1 victories over Hutt.

Dalefield finished the round-robin with a 4-0 win over Naenae in a performance that van Woerkom rated as one of the best of the season.

“We have been sort of up and down through the middle part of the season but last week we put together what I would say was our most complete performance,” he said.

“It was 0-0 at the half, but we had plenty of chances, and sometimes it’s a matter of just grinding teams down. It’s nice to be on top early, but it doesn’t always happen.”

Van Woerkom didn’t believe that complacency had led to the patchy performances.

“If there’s any complacency, it’s probably over the span of the last five years, and it’s as if we expect to win sometimes.

“The message coming out from the coaches and the senior players is that we don’t want to be complacent and that we pride ourselves on defending well, and that comes from the non-negotiables such as the work rate, the communication, the back tracking, the doing your role, and knowing the game plan.”

Dalefield have played in the past five finals, winning three championships in 2015, 2016, and 2019, and van Woerkom reckons experience was vital at finals time.

“While there are a few younger guys, a lot of us have been in plenty of finals whether it’s at national level, international with Dane [Lett] and some of the big games he has played in, and certainly at club level.

“More than half the team have been in two or three finals. Probably six have been in all three championship-winning teams.”

The 27-year-old former Junior Black Stick predicted a typically tough battle against Hutt at Clareville.

“They’re well-coached and I’m sure they’ll have something up their sleeves to throw our way.

“They’ll move the ball well, and they are physical and niggly. They’ll get in your face and will try and disrupt your play by chirping in your ear off the ball.”

“If we play to the level that we can, we will get the result, and that’s up to us. We don’t think there’s anything that they can throw at us that we can’t solve.”

Van Woerkom has also helped with the coaching of the women’s team and said they are on track for the final.

Dalefield’s Katherine van Woerkom attacking the Hutt defence in a round-robin match in July.

“They’re a younger side, and there are sure to be some nerves, but there’s also plenty of experience there and confidence too.

“They’re coming off the back of a good win last week [13-0 over Karori] and the week prior they had another very good win [3-0] against a tough Victoria side when they were a few troops down.”

Dalefield lost two games in the round-robin, both to Hutt, the first 3-4 after they had led 3-1 in the final quarter, and the most recent 1-0.

Van Woerkom said the key to a Dalefield victory could be nullifying Hutt’s key players, including ex-Black Stick Aniwaka Roberts.

“She sort of controls the game for Hutt. There are obviously a few other key players in there as well, but if they can monitor and limit the effect those players have on the game, then they should be in for a good game.”