Two-city hockey competition rejigged

 TAMWORTH and New England are again striking up a hockey alliance, with a revamped premier league set to get underway this weekend.

The concept was introduced last year and involved all four of the Tamworth men’s clubs and two from Armidale, and was “mildly successful”.

That wasn’t a reflection on the standard of hockey but more the second Armidale team not being able to field a team through to the end of the competition.

Armidale City’s Luke Uphill prepares for a challenge from South United’s Adam Straub during last year’s premier league. The competition gets underway again this weekend in a revised format. Photo: Barry Smith 020613BSD22

Armidale City’s Luke Uphill prepares for a challenge from South United’s Adam Straub during last year’s premier league. The competition gets underway again this weekend in a revised format. Photo: Barry Smith 020613BSD22

As such, organisers have tinkered with the format this year. 

There will be just one Armidale club – Armidale City – taking part and its game will be played of a Saturday.

“The different time slot and different day slot will make travel easier,” Tamworth men’s competition convener Ian Woodley said.

It means City can still play in the Armidale competition on a Sunday and won’t put as much pressure on the travelling team.

In City’s case, it  won’t have to be rushing back to Armidale to play or be limited in reserves.

Last year they were  hamstrung a bit by a ruling that players weren’t allowed to play in the premier league and local A grade competition.

That has been relaxed this year.

For the Tamworth teams, it means they can use second graders without it impacting too much, with all second grade games to be played on Sundays.

Woodley said the committee sees a future in the concept and wants to try to develop it.

They’ve already got plans for next year.

“In 2015 we really want to get it to a six-team competition to make it viable,” Woodley said.

He said it gives clubs and players from both cities another level to step up to and, by extension of that, will increase their skill level.

The competition will run for 12 weeks, with every team playing each other twice on a home and away basis and the top two after that playing off in a final.

It won’t operate completely separate to the Tamworth competition though.

The Tamworth teams will still accumulate points towards the Tamworth premiership from the games they play against the other Tamworth sides.

Blair Chalmers is looking after City and looking forward to getting into it again.

“We benefited from the NHL last year,” he said.

He said they had retained most of their players from last year.

They’ve also picked up talented young keeper Will Brissett along with former TAS boy Michael Young.

They could though be without Sam Constance. He’s a week-to-week proposition depending on his football commitments with Demon Knights.

Even still, Chalmers said the change to Saturday should work better.

As the regional coaching coordinator, Chalmers has added interest in seeing the competition thrive, and is working hard towards growing it to six teams next year.

This weekend’s fixtures will see Tudor Wests making the trip up to Armidale today and South United and Services Workies clashing in the game in Tamworth tomorrow at 1.30pm. 

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