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Innovative Intercity ready to go

Field goal conversions, high-scoring games, and facing different opposition are all part of the innovative Intercity Hockey Championship, which gets underway today.

The competitions provide the Dalefield teams with a welcome break from the Wellington Premier Championships and encompass teams from across the lower North Island, which have been split into three tiers. The men’s and women’s Farriers Dalefield teams have been grouped with familiar Wellington foes and club teams from Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay in the top tiers.

The teams are split into two pools of four and play three round-robin matches. The top two from each pool advance to the semifinals.

The men are grouped with Indians from Wellington, Feilding from Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay club Te Awa, while the women play Hutt United, Havelock [Hawke’s Bay] and HSHC [High School Hockey Club – Palmerston North]. The games tend to be high-scoring, with field goals potentially worth two goals. After a field goal is awarded, the scorer attempts to convert a shootout, and if successful, an extra goal is added to the team’s tally.

However, there is no conversion attempt after a penalty corner [PC] is scored. Dalefield men’s player-coach Benedict van Woerkom said that can lead to interesting tactics at PC’s, with the attacking team often deciding to let the ball travel more than 5m outside the circle, so it then becomes a field goal opportunity.

Defending men’s champions Dalefield will meet Indians in a repeat of last year’s final in today’s opening round, and van Woerkom is looking for a big improvement in form after some shaky recent performances, including a disappointing 1–1 draw with an average Victoria unit last week.

“We need to improve; our turnover rate was way too high, so the error rate is the main thing,” van Woerkom said.

“It will be a different sort of match because last week we were outmuscled with 50–50 balls, and they fed off the scraps. This week, we’re going to have to be disciplined in our structure because if we get out of position, Indians are technically sound, and they will find those gaps and mismatches, and they’re quick, so we have to bring our tackling sticks and our discipline.”

The return of Black Stick centurion Dane Lett brings a calming head to defence and gives Dalefield a deadly strike weapon at PC time. Lett’s return is offset by the absence of experienced campaigners Rowan Yeo and Cody Linton, while Hamish Finlayson is in doubt with a niggly Achilles strain.

Dalefield easily accounted for Indians 4–0 in their only encounter this season. The two teams fought out a 4–4 draw in last year’s Intercity final, with Dalefield winning the shootout 5-4. Another entertaining, high-scoring clash is likely this afternoon.

The match hits off at the later than usual time at 3.45 pm at the National Hockey Stadium [NHS].

A disappointing feature of the Dalefield women’s draw is that all three fixtures will be played away from home, starting this afternoon against Hutt United at the NHS. Next week, Dalefield will travel to Napier to play Havelock and wrap up their round-robin against HSHC in Palmerston North.

The Wairarapa club could not have asked for a tougher start to the championship against fierce rivals Hutt, who were 4–1 victors when the two met three weeks ago.

Dalefield played well at times during that match; however, coach Michael Sacke said they must improve and “try and control Hutt’s key players and hopefully get a result.”

Although the bonus of adding a conversion to a field goal is an interesting and tempting factor, Sacke said his focus is simply on Dalefield finishing off their goal-scoring opportunities.

A big blow for Dalefield is the sidelining of former Black Stick striker Felicity Reidy with a niggly back/hamstring injury, while experienced defender Katie McAnulty is out with work commitments.

The hit-off is at 12.30 pm at the NHS.

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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