Katie-Anne Saywell will play her first game for Dalefield since 2018. PHOTO/FILE

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Dalefield coach Michael O’Connor predicted a difficult game when his team travel to Paraparaumu today to play Kapiti in a Wellington premier championship game.

Both teams started their campaigns with big wins. Dalefield were impressive in their 5-2 victory over defending champions Harbour City after going behind 2-0 in the first two minutes, and Kapiti trounced Karori 6-1.

Much of Kapiti’s play revolves around Black Sticks great Suzie Muirhead, who still regularly turns out for the team at the age of 45.

Although she doesn’t have the pace of old, Muirhead uses all of the experience garnered from 238 internationals to get under the skin of the opposition.

“There’s always a bit niggle when we play them, and Suzie is often among it. Last time we played them, she was sent off twice,” O’Connor said.

“They’re a real handful to play against. If we do everything right, do the basics well and not get involved in their niggle we should okay, but it won’t be easy.”

The impressive Jenna Anderson will miss today’s game through work commitments.

“Her place is taken by defender Katie-Anne Saywell, who played three seasons for Dalefield before travelling overseas and will return to the team for the first time since 2018.

O’Connor has called on experience from the men’s team to help with the team’s preparation.

“We’ve had Benedict van Woerkom helping with our trainings and working with us on playing different styles, and that’s been brilliant,” he said.

O’Connor was confident Dalefield could come home with an important win against a tricky opponent.

Meanwhile, a redraw in the men’s premiership has Dalefield drawn to play Indians today at the National Hockey Stadium after initially been given the bye.

The once powerful Indians have gone through a major decline in recent years with players retiring and others moving to opposing clubs.

The teams had contrasting starts to the season last Saturday. Indians suffered a 0-7 loss to Naenae, while Dalefield dominated Harbour City 9-0.

A bonus-point victory for a win by five goals or more will be the target for Dalefield, however co-manager Bernie Lett said the main aim was to keep improving.

“We still left a lot of chances out there last week,” he said.

“Harbour City weren’t very fit, and they fell away badly in the second half,” he said.

“We dominated them and created a lot of goal-scoring opportunities and got players in good positions but couldn’t always finish them off.”

“We’re not certain what Indians will bring, but we want to continue to build on last week.”

Anything but a bonus-point victory to Dalefield would be a major surprise.