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Dalefield take different approach

HOCKEY

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Farriers Dalefield are taking a fresh approach to the Wellington Premier Men’s Hockey Championship, which begins tomorrow with an away trip to the National Hockey Stadium to take on Harbour City.

Last year’s beaten finalists have retained the core of players who played a big part in the team, which won four titles since the rejuvenation of the men’s team in 2015, but there are also some fresh new faces.

Player-coach New Zealand indoor hockey representative Benedict van Woerkom, Black Sticks centurion Dane Lett, although his involvement will likely be limited given his probable selection for the Paris Olympics, Daniel van Woerkom, Rowan Yeo, Graeme Murrell, and Nathan Whiteman have all returned for the season and provide a quality core.

Jamie O’Hara, who played several games in 2023; national under-21 squad member Cohen Scott; Nathan Lowe, a newcomer to the region; and some of the region’s promising secondary school players make up the squad.

Another change is that training, which had been spread between Clareville and Wellington to take some of the travel pressure of Wellington-based players, will be solely Wairarapa-based.

“It is exciting to be locally based, and it’s exciting to have some young fresh minds involved to help grow and develop and to bring a fresh perspective,” Benedict van Woerkom said.

“When we’ve got everyone, we’re very good down our spine, but we might be a bit loose around the edges.”

Ben Schwass, Jarrod Yee, experienced defender Jahan Pabhu, and striker Marcus Ambrose are missing from last year’s squad.

Despite the changes, Benedict van Woerkom believes Dalefield will be competitive, although he said traditional foes Hutt United and Indians are “very strong on paper” and the sides to beat, with his team not far behind.

“It will be one of those seasons where there will be games we need to win, and this is one. If we target this as a must-win, then that goes a long way to putting us in a solid spot for the playoffs.

“If we get through to the finals playoffs and Dane is back, which is a big part of how we operate, we could be a real threat.”

Perennial battlers Victoria and Northern United make up the six-team competition, which will be played over three full rounds before the playoffs.

Hit off is at the NHS at 2.15pm.

For the first time in several seasons, the Dalefield premier sides won’t have home games on the same day.

Because of the different number of teams in each competition [six in the men’s and eight in the women’s], Wellington Hockey have scheduled tomorrow’s women’s premier championship clash with Harbour City at the Trust House Wairarapa Hockey Complex at Clareville, while the men have to travel to Newtown.

The double header home games have proved popular in the past, with the visiting teams supporting their clubmates and supporters travelling over the hill to cheer on the teams.

Dalefield and Harbour City go into tomorrow’s game searching for their first win of the season after both suffered first-round losses. The home side went down 4–3 to a much-improved Toa, and Harbour City were beaten 2–0 by 2023 runners-up Northern United.

New Dalefield coach Michael Sacke will want a better start than last week when his team conceded two goals from counterattacks in the first quarter. Although they fought back to draw level, the slow start ultimately cost Dalefield any chance of victory.

The match will get underway at Clareville at 12.30pm tomorrow.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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