City Highlanders still team to beat in women's competition

The victorious City Highlanders women’s team after winning the final on Saturday.  Photos: Gregor...
The victorious City Highlanders women’s team after winning the final on Saturday. Photos: Gregor Richardson.
The Dunedin club hockey competition gets under way this weekend. Hockey writer Matthew West takes look at the season ahead.

City Highlanders remains the team to beat in the women's competition coming off an unbeaten season.

They once again have an extremely dangerous midfield and have Tegan Buchanan and Milla De Bruin powering forward.

The experienced Jemma Morland, along with Jessica Faulks and Deborah Yung, will drive the side around the park and provide a solid base at the defensive end.

University A Huskies have changed from 2018. They are a well-balanced side, from newly promoted keeper Claire McGregor through to new strikers Celeste Lane and Lucy Simpson up front. They will look to the experience of Molly Sheffield, Paige Mackie and the other returning players to drive them.

The Momona side has a couple of key changes and the loss of Lydia Shirley at the back is going to be a huge hole to fill although picking up Tessa Buschl is a boost.

Extra work from Annabelle Lee and Matisse Uluilelata in the defence will be needed, but Claudia Peyroux and Nicole Strawbridge are quality up front.

Taieri has been stuck in fourth for a few years now and will be hoping some key pick-ups can push it upwards.

Gaining keeper Mia Nevill is a huge plus, while defenders Kate Boswell and Yzobel Maindonald further power the side's traditional strength. The health of experienced midfielder Erin Smyth, who missed pre-season, is important, while Bex Clementson will lead the front three.

University B Rays are always an enigma at the start of the year. As usual there will be a turnover of players.

Rachel Stafford-Bush is a more than useful defender and, in Cassandra Dawson and Tash Donald, they have strength in the midfield and striker as well. Also look out for Emma Hopcroft, probably one of the fastest players in the game returning after a year playing rugby.

Kings United has picked up each season since returning to the premier grade.

The loss of Tessa Buschl is a blow but Susan White is the likely replacement and has shown she can manage games in the past. Keely Hager is a smart an solid defender and the addition of Hayley Maunder in goal will be a big plus.

The men's competition also shapes as one of the closest in years.

Kings United is defending champion and the most experienced side by some margin. The return to the game of Lawson Davison boosts its already very dangerous front three and, with James Nation and Hitaua Doyle at the back, the team looks ominous.

Campbell Paton has moved on and will be missed but Kings has to be favourite at this stage.

University A Whales have had players move on but still look solid.

With Max Rasmussen still running the show at the back, Kailin Dayal, Tim Kerr and Callum Dempster in the middle, and Henry Will up front, there are plenty of star returners to build around. Look for Devanand Bhikha and keeper Balthazar Ruscoe of the new names to have big seasons.

Albany Alligators have had a clean-out. It seems a few of the 2018 side needed a scene change and have left the swamp.

The return of Josh Smith from a long-term concussion is a big plus, and teaming with Matt Moore at the back is as good as any team can produce. Silas Dalley and Josh Caldwell are dangerous attacking midfielders and there is plenty of ability in the young strike line.

Taieri Tuataras are picking young talent and letting it play. They have been spearheaded in the past by the two Ward brothers and now have a third with young Patrick joining brothers Jordan and Finn.

James Nicolson and Zeke Buschl are also fresh from junior national camps and will be raring to go. The addition of experienced Nathan Gilbert ill help.

University Black Panthers are always hard to gauge. Some seasons are great, others not so good.

Allan Carson in goal will have to continue to play as well as he has, while Jamie Pollock's move from the Whales is a massive plus.

Southland is back after missing last year due to a lack of numbers. The likes of Dean Ritani, Andrew Moore, Rob Dickie and Rheuben Prattley will be crucial.

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