THE rebranded and new-look Hockey New England Super 9s competition flicks into action tonight.
As well as the local association taking over the sponsorship and running of it, this year’s competition will also see the addition of a women’s division.
Both competitions will consist of four teams, with the four franchises – Sportspower, Dreamcoat, Hutchinson & Harlow and Lockman Doors – each sponsoring a men’s and a women’s team.
Sportspower has been there from the beginning but the other three sponsors are all new on board this year.
Hunt’s Carpets, who were one of the team sponsors last year, are also sponsoring the referees and ball kids, after missing out on a team.
The competition again created strong interest among the local players with over 70 men and 60 women signing up for the draft.
State U21s rep Kyle Eichorn was the first pick in the men’s.
He was snapped up by Sportspower captain – and new regional coaching coordinator for the Northern Inland – Blair Chalmers.
“He (Eichorn) was actually my first pick two years ago,” Chalmers recalled.
Eichorn won’t be available for all seven weeks of the competition but should be right for the first four round games and possibly the final, and was too good to ignore.
Sam Constance, James Abbo and Tamworth’s Josh Worpel were others to go in the early picks, Constance to Lockman, Worpel to Dreamcoat and Abbo to Hutchinson & Harlow.
The latter was savvy in selecting its captains. It went for Ben Hanlan (men) and Brit Parker (women).
They would have been among the first picked up if they were in the draft. Hanlan was close to, if not, the player of the competition last year.
The top pick in the women was Emma Slade.
She was locked in by mother Cyndy (Lockman).
Carolyn Beresford (Sportspower) and Kath Czinner (Dreamcoat) will lead the other two sides while Dean Waters will captain the Lockman men and Matt Jackson Dreamcoat.
Chalmers said the numbers in the men was a little bit down on last year.
He put that in part down to not as many Tamworth players wanting to participate.
Last year there were about 12.
This year there’s only six or seven, although there’s a few new faces among those.
That also goes for the Armidale contingent.
“Especially a lot of young guys who have come through from U15s level,” Chalmers said.
The women’s teams feature a good mix of older and younger players from the likes of state U14s reps Abigail Doolan and Em Chaffey (both Tamworth) to Beresford and Czinner.
They will both miss tonight due to the women’s state indoor masters.
Chalmers was hoping a few more Tamworth women would put their names down but it is a starting point.
Games will be played at 7pm and 8pm using the two fields.
Lockman and Dreamcoat will kick off things in the men followed by Hutchinson & Harlow and Sportspower.
It will be the reverse in the women, with Hutchinson & Harlow and Sportspower playing the 7pm game.