I confess, I'm not much of a hockey player. The only credit I can put on my hockey resume is a few intermediate school twilight games where I used IB5 school books as shin-pads.

In saying that, I still think it's a heck of a game. Watching it live, especially at a national level, gives you a true appreciation of how fit you really need to be to play the game at the pace required.

Northland is no stranger to the highest levels of hockey. In fact, a number of Northland's female players make up the bulk of experience and youth in the women's Black Sticks team.

Players like Stacey Michelsen and Ella Gunson, who have racked up more than 200 caps each for the Black Sticks, hail from Northland, as well as young sisters, Madison and Katie Doar, who have thrived under the pressure of the national spotlight.


Northland's club hockey scene is no different. Former Black Sticks and national hockey league players are littered through a number of teams in the men's and women's premier teams and other grades.

What these players provide is an invaluable resource for our younger players coming through. Speaking to all the premier coaches before the start of round one (which kicked off yesterday), there is an abundance of youth in our premier hockey teams who will be eager to cut their teeth this season.

It's a similar narrative told by other clubs from other codes about how young players are the most valuable resource in an era where sporting numbers are reducing drastically for some codes.

Most of our premier hockey coaches spoke about the trouble they have had in recent years with depth and being able to field a full squad each week. From personal experience, the effect this has on a team is not an enjoyable one with uncertainty and disappointment rearing their ugly heads every Saturday.

However, the confidence from our coaches looking ahead to this season will be easy to verify once we get further into the year. It'll be when the bodies begin to tire and the injuries take hold when we'll see just how prepared these teams are.

But for the moment, I think we can be happy with the number of young players making the step up into the premier grade. For most, they will be ready for it, having watched parents and friends playing in the top league in the region and dreaming of one day competing at that level.

What will be required, though, is good management from our coaches. While it is a great opportunity for these players to try Northland's top club competition, it can quickly become a struggle coming up against the wealth of talent and experience of some teams.

Former Black Sticks like Maungakaramea's Anna Alexander and Old Girls' Laura Douglas cast an impressive, but daunting, shadow for those young ones who play them, let alone those who have to go against them.


The management of these players and not introducing them too soon to the top flight of Northland hockey is incredibly important to ensuring the continued stream of national representatives Northland supplies to the global hockey scene.

Anything less than that and we could find ourselves crippling the very future we look to create.