THE North West is bristling with hockey talent, and it’s getting stronger.
That was the assessment of University of Technology Sydney president Paul Economides after the club made their annual pre-season visit to Tamworth.
It’s developed strong ties with the Northern Inland Academy of Sport and this year’s visit was the club’s fourth.
Each year the talent seems to be getting better and better, Economides said.
“The standards have improved,” he said.
“The first year we came there were one or two standouts.”
“The next year there were three or four. I was watching the games this (Sunday) morning and there were half a dozen kids that are good enough to play top level in Sydney.”
“The development program here is going gang busters.”
The club have established a scholarship program with the academy and each year award a player from the boys squad and one from the girls a $500 scholarship.
Previous recipients of the scholarship include Kyle Eichorn, Luke Kliendienst, Claire Eichorn and Alex McKenzie.
The weekend was a good chance to have a look at the players that might be up for it this year.
The relationship with the NIAS is one the club is keen to foster, and with the talent running around why wouldn’t they?
Last year there were local representatives in almost every state team.
The other benefit of the visit is that it’s a good chance to have a hit-out.
“Our season starts in a couple of weeks,” Economides said.
They brought up 12 of their first grade men’s squad, and played an invitational Tamworth men’s side on Saturday afternoon and then the NIAS boys on Sunday.
“As a uni club we get a lot of new students each year,” he said.
“It’s a good team-building trip.”
And the games are always tough. Last year their clash against the invitational side ended in a 3-all draw.
This year UTS pipped the locals 3-2.
It’s a good sign for the season ahead.
Last season was a bit disappointing, Economides said, but he’s confident of a better season this year.
“This year we’re looking stronger,” he said.
“We missed a couple of key positions last year. We’ve filled those.”
“Luke Kliendienst will help us.”
The weekend was also a good chance for the NIAS squads to get in some games before next month’s Academy Games.
They’re a little over a month away.
UTS only brought up a few of its girls, but it gave girls’ squad coach Andrew Farmilo the chance to give everyone a good run.
“It was good to see where they’re at,” he said.
He was pretty happy with what he saw.
“They distributed the ball well and got into the right positions,” he said.
“And we scored some goals which was good.”
They also did some skills sessions with some of the UTS boys running a specific drag-flicking session on Sunday morning.