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Lett back in for crucial semifinal

HOCKEY

Men

Dalefield vs Hutt United

12.30pm

The return of Black Stick centurion Dane Lett is the big plus for Farriers Dalefield heading into this afternoon’s Intercity semifinal against traditional foes Hutt United at the Trust House Wairarapa Hockey Complex at Clareville.

On a slight downside for the defending champions, player-coach Benedict van Woerkom is away at a national indoor hockey training camp ahead of this month’s World Cup Oceania qualifying series in Australia. Cody Linton is the other experienced player out of the game with an ongoing hamstring injury.

Although Lett’s influence in a midfield-defensive role will be a major factor, van Woerkom feels the recent good form of veteran striker Rowan Yeo, whose attacking prowess has been to the fore in their latest victories, could be decisive.

“’Yeodle’ is making a big difference up front; his ability to organise the press, create opportunities, and set other guys up is having a big impact on us, which is awesome,” said van Woerkom, who expects another titanic battle between the two teams.

“No doubt it will be another good derby against Hutt who we’ve had some good battles with over the last 10 or so years since 2015.”

Hutt, however, have bragging rights from recent matches. The last time Dalefield beat Hutt was in the 2023 Intercity semifinal, while Hutt triumphed in last year’s Wellington Premiership final and won their first-round clash last month.

The unknown factor, though, could be field goals, which count for two if the scorer converts a shootout attempt, while goals from penalty corners don’t provide that opportunity, and van Woerkom believes that could work in Dalefield’s favour.

“They [Hutt] have a good penalty corner threat, so it will be interesting to see if they stick to their guns there or if they try any variations like let it go outside the five [metres outside the circle] and turn it into a field goal opportunity.”

Van Woerkom is confident that with close to a full-strength aside and playing a rare home semifinal, Dalefield can progress to next weekend’s decider.

Women

Dalefield vs Tech Academy

2.15pm

Farriers Dalefield coach Michael Sacke intends to use today’s Intercity bottom four semifinal at Clareville as an important step in the build-up to the resumption of the Wellington Premier Championship in July.

“We’re starting to understand how we want to play, and it’s another step in that direction,” Sacke said.

“The objective in the Wellington competition is to make the top four, so that’s the goal still, and we’ve got a chance to do that, so that will be our focus.”

That could mean some experimentation after the experienced Finola O’Boyle played her final game for the team last week before leaving for overseas.

“We’re going to have to because Finola has gone, so we’re going to rejig our midfield a little bit. She was our centre midfielder, which is a critical position, so we’ve had to rejig that a little bit and try and get the more senior players closer together so you form an axis of senior players.”

One positive for Sacke was that former Black Stick Felicity Reidy, who is Dalefield’s main strike weapon, came through last Saturday’s win over Manawatu’s HSHC unscathed in her first match since recovering from a hamstring-back injury.

Sacke admits the team is going in blind against Napier Tech Academy, “and we’ll just concentrate on our own game, but all of their games have been quite close, and they haven’t had any major blowouts, so we’ll take them seriously for sure.”

This afternoon’s match will be Dalefield’s first at home in over a month, and Sacke is relishing the prospect of having home support.

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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