Bond set to continue despite severing of formal ties

The final whistle has sounded for the Southern Hockey Association but the community will continue to work together, chairwoman Wendy Ryan says.

The incorporated society will formally be dissolved early next year.

The tournament structure which gave the Southern Hockey Association its life is being dismantled by Hockey New Zealand in favour of an association-based model.

Ryan said there were still a ''few bills to pay'' and some coaching programmes and regional development programmes to see through. But by the end of the year, Southern Hockey's ''to do list'' will be completely empty and the organisation will be wound up at its annual general meeting.

''We are really sad because it is honestly an amazing franchise,'' Ryan said.

''Southern has always been an incredible region because there have been very few paid people at the helm during the years.

''That has given us an incredible strength in a roundabout way because the volunteers have certainly contributed many, many man hours to the running of Southern.''

Southern Hockey was set up in 2010 by its five founding associations - North Otago, Otago, Central Otago, Eastern Southland and Invercargill - to manage the region's National Hockey League teams and the Southern under-21 and under-18 teams.

''One of the things we've seen is an incredible bonding of those associations as they worked together.''

Ryan believes that bond will endure despite the formal ties being severed.

It is not clear exactly what format the new tournaments will take and what part the individual associations will play in the new model. But regardless, Ryan feels the community will continue to work together for the betterment of hockey in the deep south. That will be Southern's lasting legacy, she suggested.

''Even though the region may not exist in terms of the tournaments, the question we've got to look at is where to from here for us.

''We need to work together and that is where we are at now.

''Collectively we can do really good things. Personally, I don't see that sort of collegiality disappearing just because Southern is disappearing,'' she said.

Southern has certainly produced some quality players.

Kane Russell, Nick Ross, Hugo Inglis and Blair Tarrant are key cogs in the Black Sticks men's side, while the likes of Nick Elder, Kieran O'Connor, Malachi Buschl, Tessa Jopp and Ginny Wilson have also made
national teams.

While there have been talented players in the squads during the years, a National Hockey League title has proved elusive.

The Southern Men's team went close in 2015, losing the final to Capital in a tense shootout.

The Southern Women's team has found the challenge much steeper. The Storm's last win in the tournament was in 2015 and its extended its losing streak to 33 games with another winless season this year.

Arguably Southern's biggest disappointment was failing to field teams in the 2016 National Hockey League.

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