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The Southern Dogs will make some last-minute plans and polish off their preparations with a run-around tonight.
But the hard work starts tomorrow in the season-opener against Canterbury in Dunedin.
Canterbury struggled in the National Hockey League last year. But the Cavaliers put 10 goals past Auckland in a couple of warm-up games recently and shape as stern competition, Dogs coach Clive Daniels warned.But he is upbeat about his side’s prospects.
"The guys are positive and focused. They are looking really good," he said.
"We’ll have all our players at training [tonight]. But it is more about working out what our game plans are and what the threats are from Canterbury and how we can shut them down."
Daniels said he looked at the footage from Canterbury’s warm-up games with Auckland and said the team "looked pretty sharp".
"We are going to have to shut down key players and that is what we will be working on.
"Our strategy is going to be key. If we stick to it, we’ll have a good shout."
It is important Southern gets its running lines right and get its positional play sorted, Daniels said. That will help with connections which may take a while to settle.
If the game is not going so well, he wants to see his side adapt quickly. Part of that will be picking the right time press and "how we change it up on the field".
Southern was very competitive last season despite having a season out of the league, in 2016. The Dogs forced their way into the top four with wins against Midlands and Central but came unstuck in the semifinal, losing 2-1 to eventual winner North Harbour.
The playoff for third was a 6-1 rout by Capital but Southern had perhaps emptied its tank by then.Canterbury pummelled Northland twice but could not win any of the games that counted and finished seventh.
Daniels described his squad as young with a sprinkling of experience.
Veteran defender James Nation will lead the defensive effort.
The 41-year-old former Black Stick will be a calming influence on a solid back four.
The younger brigade will be led by exciting midfielder Malachi Buschl. The 18-year-old made his international debut in India in July. Jordan Ward is another prolific talent emerging from the region.
"I think we are going to surprise a few people with how we are going to play," Daniels said.
Canterbury’s squad looks solid with the likes of national squad members David Brydon, George Enersen, Sam Lane and Dominic Newman forming an intimidating core.
Add former Australian international Tim Deavin into the mix and Canterbury shapes as a strong contender. But there are also six players making their debut at this level.
Southern v Canterbury
Dunedin, tomorrow, 1.30pm
Southern: Thomas Mallon, Hamish van Dyke, James Nation, Johnny Thorn, Jordan Ward, Matt Moore, Maxwell Rasmussen, Malachi Buschl, Dylan Thomas, Campbell Paton, Callum Dempster, Jason Dungey, Finn Ward, Lachie Davidson, Joe O’Connor, Jack Gilbert, Craig Turner, Nathan Gilbert.
Canterbury: Not available.