Match fitness main hockey worry


MATCH fitness and not competition points would appear to be the major objective going into today's opening round of Gladstone District Hockey Association A1 men's and women's fixtures at Rigby Park.

With most teams having experienced limited training opportunities and only a handful of trial matches in which to prepare for the new premiership, coaches are generally looking to work on their combinations for the season ahead.

Sparks A1 men's coach Dean Gorda said the defending premiers would be near full strength for today's clash with Meteors, the first of three successive encounters with their archrivals over the next three weeks.

'We've got a pretty good side with Burnsy (Jason Burns) fit and Wayne Boyd coming in to goalkeep for us,'' Gorda said.

'We've also moved Warwick Smith into the forwards, at inside ? he was keen to step up.'

Gorda said young players such as Trent Leask and Brendan Scanlan would be given more responsibility this year and he expected both to figure prominently in the side.

'We want to give Brendan a good run in A grade while Trent has already cemented his spot,' he said.

He hoped other youngsters would also step up from A2 competition and make their mark in A1 competition.

New Meteors A1 men's coach Daryn Ware said his team was still regaining fitness and would use the opening two weeks of competition to prepare for the upcoming CQ Extended League season.

'We'll just be trying to get things right for the first round of the Extended League and get a few miles in our legs,' Ware said.

'It doesn't matter about the result, we just need to get the match practice and get through the match.'

Ware said the side would miss the services of Matt Lamberton and Scott Dawes who are not backing up this season but added the return of former clubmen Mark Stephens and Brett Hagenbach would cover for their absence.

Roy Smith, coach of the reigning A1 women's champions Meteors outfit, was confident his side would recover from the loss of experienced players Raelene Webber, Carol Pericles, Vanessa Wharton and, for the early matches at least, Jill Mathison.

'We've identified what we need to do and how to go about it,' Smith said.

'We're quietly confident ? we have a good nu-cleus still and the younger players will step up.'

Smith said the team would stick with the open style which brought them a title last year and expected experienced pair Karla Fleming and Bianca Nathan to lead the side around the park. Youngsters Jami Long and Jo Homann, who established themselves as regular A1 players last season, will control the midfield with Sandy Barnett patrolling the defensive line.

Sparks veteran defender Julie Etherton said her side, coached by Rob Inwood and made up predominantly of young players, would look to build upon the improvements made last season.

'The youngsters are getting stronger and everyone's training well,' she said.

'We'll have the oldies at the back and hopefully the kids will be hungry up at the net.'

With Etherton and Angela Jeynes solid at the back, it will be up to the likes of talented teens Sophie Braddick, Caitlyn Harper and Rachael Nicol to look after the attack.

Last year's grand finalists Souths, whose coach Wayne Jenkinson could not be contacted yesterday, have a first round bye. Both A1 matches will be played at 2.30pm.

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