Hockey Southland changes prove popular with players

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Pass. . . Eastern United player Alex Stevenson shadows Mataura/Riversdale player Sara Aynsley,13 but can not prevent her from passing the ball to a team mate in a Hockey Southland division 3 game at Gore on Sunday. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Most grades in the Hockey Southland competition had a hitout last week, starting with division one games on Friday night.

Hockey Southland general manager Tracey McCall said while numbers across most of the grades were similar to last year, the number of division four teams had grown.

Numbers had not been finalised as the competition had not started, but there were already 13 teams, which was up two on last year.

Last year the format of the division four competition was changed from 11-a-side full-field games to six-a-side playing on half the field.

It had proved a popular change, McCall said.

“The kids got more touches on the ball, they scored more goals which they found exciting.”

“The feedback we got on the whole was really great.”

It had been a “good confidence-builder” for the year 7 and 8 players.

“They can’t hide in that grade – it’s all go,it’s fast hockey and always something happening.”

In a division three game at Gore on Sunday, Eastern United beat Riversdale 4-0.

Eastern United is coached by Sam Young and George Hedley (17).

Young said he was pleased with the way the team played.

“We scored in the first two minutes which was good.”

The team played a different structure than is usually seen in Southland.

“Instead of having four defenders we only had three and we played two centre halves.”

The first and fourth quarters the players held the structure, but lost their way in the middle of the game.

Four players, Nate Davis, Dillon McBride (both 14), Alex Stevenson (12) and Isaac Marsh (15), had good games.

“Nate, Dillon and Alex passed really well and used their team-mates.

“Isaac was a good attacking front and worked hard to get in a position to receive the ball.

“Dillon was bit of a rock in defence.”

The Mataura-Riversdale team is a combination of players from both clubs, coached by Vince Aynsley and Brenda Hope.

It was a good team effort, Aynsley said.

It was the first time the girls had played together.

“They fought hard for each other which is always nice to see.

“We kept the score down until the last quarter.

“They kept on fighting through the whole game and didn’t give up which is a positive sign to see for the season ahead.”

The team did have opportunities to score.

“If we had half an ounce of luck we might have got a couple of goals against the boys.”

Neither team had reserves which was a tough start to the season, he said.