Four Bay of Plenty hockey teams competing in this year's Intercity competition have started their campaign with wins and, while all are after titles, coaches are expecting tough competition throughout the season.
The competition, which started on April 27, includes club teams from Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Pukekohe with the men competing for the Intercity Cup and the women contesting the Intercity Trophy. Bay of Plenty teams up for the honours include CMS Mount Women, Ōtūmoetai Magic, Tauranga Old Boys, Bay of Plenty Indians, Aces and Marist St Michaels.
Waikato Hockey Association chief executive Declan Wyndham-Smith is on the committee that runs the intercity competitions and says the competition is good way to bring together the teams in the regions.
"It has been going for a lot of years and in the past it was one of those things that was passed around the associations. Over time it was found that had different consequences each year," Wyndham-Smith says.
"The group has been running for the competition for the past four years and it has enabled us to put in a set of rules. We have a rotation of where the big finals day is, and this year it will be in Rotorua."
The format has changed this year from a split-tier competition to having round robin, followed by semi-finals and finals. The men's competition includes 13 teams this year, three less than last year, which Wyndham-Smith says suited the round-robin format.
In the opening round of the competition, men's teams to secure wins were Aces, beating Pukekohe Indians 4-2 and Bay of Plenty Indians taking a 4-1 victory over Fraser Tech 1. Wins were also secured by Bay women's teams Ōtūmoetai Magic, beating University 3-1 and CMS Mount taking the 3-1 win over fellow Bay team Marist St Michaels 0.
Aces built from a solid defensive platform, scoring four first half goals as they showcased their counter-attacking ability. Pukekohe came back in the second half with two goals, before Aces were able to grind out he win. The opening round win follows on from Aces Baywide senior title win two weeks ago, and coach Jamie Carroll says it is a pleasing way to start the competition.
"They are a strong side and our defence won us the game in the first half. It is a bit of unknown at the start of the intercity season, you get the preparation from Baywide, but then it is another step up," Carroll says.
Aces take on another Pukekohe team, Kohekohe, this Saturday in what Carroll says is a demanding away fixture.
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"It will be another tough game and they have made the final in the past. We have a couple of players away so it will test our depth a little bit. We will be trying to keep calm in pressure situations, which is about not dropping our heads and sticking in there.
"We want to be really good with low-risk in defence and it is important for the younger defenders to continue that. We have really good communication at the back and an organised defence leads to counter-attacking opportunities. We don't struggle to score goals, which is a blessing."
CMS Mount Maunganui coach Narayan Singh says he is happy with his team's win, particularly as his side was under strength but are looking ahead to this weekend when they travel to Rotorua to take on Aces on Saturday.
"They play a different style to us," Singh says.
"They will be very in your face and they don't let too much go. They really congest things up and they like high turnover and quick counter attacking. We like to control it so a key will be high possession and good territory to take the sting out of their counters."
Singh says working on the close-quarter facets of their game will be a focus this week.
"It would be nice to see us control the ball in the high-contact areas. We want to see them be tougher on the ball and those are your tight skills and being stronger.
"We play a lot of small possession games at training that are high tempo and they are about getting your touches and small movements right. We like to move the ball around the back before we move forward as well."
Intercity draw: Saturday, May 4
Men's Intercity Cup:
Onewhero-Pukekohe v Suburbs.
Kohekohe v Aces.
Hamilton Old Boys v Bay of Plenty Indians.
Pukekohe Indians v Te Awamutu.
Fraser Tech v University.
Waiau Pa Pirates v CIP Collegians.
Tauranga Old Boys, bye.
Women's Intercity Trophy:
Ōtūmoetai Magic v Waiau Pa.
University v Hamilton Old Girls.
Aces v CMS Mount Maunganui.
Te Awamutu v Fraser Tech.
Marist St Michaels, bye.
Intercity hockey results: Saturday, April 27
Onewhero-Pukekohe 1, Kohekohe 0.
Suburbs 6, Hamilton Old Boys 2.
Aces 4, Pukekohe Indians 2.
Bay of Plenty Indians 4, Fraser Tech 1.
Te Awamutu 3, Waiau Pa Pirates 0.
University 8, Tauranga Old Boys 1.
Women's Intercity Trophy:
Ōtūmoetai Magic 3, University 1.
Waiau Pa 5, Aces 2.
Hamilton Old Girls 6, Te Awamutu 0.
CMS Mount 3, Marist St Michaels 0.