Consider the sibling rivalry around the Panchia house a few years ago.

Three brothers duelling as only brothers can. Now they will play for defending champions Auckland together for the first time in the National Hockey League (NHL), which starts today.

Arun, 25, and Jared, 20, have already made the Black Sticks. Both are attackers. Now there's 19-year-old Daniel, and he's the defender in the family.

And if you think having three brothers in one team is unusual, it's positively ho-hum this season, with Canterbury's Hayde brothers, Cam, Mitchell and Willie, in their squad.

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The Panchias have played together at club level for Southern Districts, but this is a new ball game and for Daniel a significant step up.

Jared remembers the back yard sporting rivalries growing up.

"There were a few moments when we got on each other's backs," he laughed. "It's what most people would expect.

"We grew up around hockey and for Daniel and me it was watching Arun play. There's certainly competition but he helped us get where we are."

For Daniel, "being the youngest you never wanted to lose to your older brothers".

"Hockey was the No1 thing for me. We did play a bit of tennis when were younger over summer, but I've enjoyed it my whole life.

"Having Jared and Arun play has been a big help, especially with Arun making the Black Sticks when we were still quite young. That was something for us to look up to."

Now he's champing at the bit to get into the league and prove himself.

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"It's pretty cool. I'm really excited and hopefully we can keep the wins going, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us," Daniel said.

A third Panchia in the Black Sticks? The national league is just the proving ground for Daniel, who is in the national junior squad.

And when the three are playing for Auckland over the coming fortnight, consider the pride of their parents Peter and Ramila. "They have been a big part of it and to see us all play for Auckland will be quite special for them as well," Jared said.

Auckland, who won the last two Challenge Shields and shared it in 2011 with Central, boast five national squad members, including recently retired Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins, and goalkeeper Devon Manchester. They also have outstanding Australian striker Jamie Dwyer arriving next week as their international player. They play Southern in Dunedin today, then return home to entertain Northland tomorrow.

Auckland's women - with the same programme this weekend - will be without senior striker Katie Glynn for the K Cup, but have internationals Krystal Forgesson, Liz Thompson and Julia King.

The women's competition has been an open book in recent years. The last five seasons have produced five different winners.

North Harbour are looking to go it alone without imports - each team is allowed up to two - but the men have a core of Black Sticks squad members.

Black Sticks players must play for their region of origin in the NHL to help prevent teams being stacked.

Upcoming games

• The National Hockey League starts this weekend, with a double round of men's and women's matches at various venues around the country - two games each at Whangarei, Stratford, Christchurch and Dunedin today; and Auckland, Hamilton, Paraparaumu and Timaru tomorrow.
• From the third round to the finals, all games will be played at North Harbour between September 6-14.
• Games will be played in four 15-minute quarters, as per the new international regulations, which kick in on September 1.
• Midlands will be defending their women's title, while Auckland beat Southern in a penalty shootout to win last year's men's crown.