Ben Van Woerkom, left . . . an attacking threat for Dalefield.

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Dalefield will field a powerful line-up in their quest to win their third Wellington Premier men’s hockey championship in five seasons.

The team were victorious in 2015 and 2016, before losing in the finals to Hutt [2-0] in 2017 and in a shootout in 2018.

If anything, this year’s squad will be stronger than last season’s team.

Trent Lett . . . adds steel to Dalefield defence. PHOTOS/FILE

Quality defender Trent Lett returns after missing part of the 2018 season while abroad, and influential midfielder-attacker Ben Van Woerkom is back after playing overseas. Both have several years’ experience playing at National Hockey League level.

Dalefield will again be coached by Black Stick Dane Lett. The player-coach will play the season’s opening game against Victoria on Saturday, before leaving for the next round of the World Hockey League in Argentina. He will miss one game before returning for the third

His commitment to the national team could have him miss several games throughout the season.

Co-manager Bernie Lett said the rest of the team are looking ‘very good’.

“We’ve secured the services of former Wairarapa College student Ethan Presow, who was a member of the 2018 New Zealand Under-18 squad and will benefit from Dane’s coaching.”

“Hamish Finlayson, Alex Sumenko-Bucknell, Nathan Whiteman and Rowan Yeo are regulars who are back again, and we’ve got a new midfielder-attacker Jordan Cohen, coming over from Palmerston North, so we’ll have plenty of attacking threats.

“Zac Hardie, Dylan Price, Jayan Parbhu, Jacob Harp and Daniel Van Woerkom, who missed part of the 2018 season, are other players who add to the depth of the squad”.

The experienced John Forsyth will be first choice goalkeeper, with Wairarapa College student William Brown as backup. Brown can expect a lot of work, with Forsyth’s job as a police officer impacting on his availability.

Bernie Lett is predicting plenty of game time for youngsters Gus Borren [Rathkeale], Michael Caldwell [Rathkeale] and Josh Nelson [Wairarapa College]. “They’re all very talented and it’s a good opportunity for them to be tested at a higher level” he said.

On the down side, Dalefield will miss the speed of Nick Finlayson, a regular in the Capital NHL team, in attack, as well as the talents of Zac Caldwell, Mitch Blackwood and Phil Arkell, who are all not playing this year.

Bernie Lett is uncertain what to expect from the other clubs in what is now a seven-team competition after the withdrawal of the Kapiti side.

“It’s hard to say what the other teams will be like. Kapiti had shown some promise, but now they can’t field a team. I think some of those players have gone to Naenae. Hutt will be our biggest challenge, but Harbour City, Northern United and Victoria are always strong.”

Dalefield start their campaign away to Victoria at the National Hockey Stadium on Saturday.