City, Whales begin title defences

Competitive club hockey opens in Dunedin today, with the City Highlanders (women) and University Whales (men) out to defend their respective premier titles.

City have been the dominant force in women’s hockey in Otago for several years now, and having won the annual Toast Cup, they will be tough to beat again, especially with Black Sticks star Tessa Jopp having joined them for this season.

Momona is expected to be their closest challenger, having kept together a large chunk of their playing squad.

Last year’s finalists, Taieri, have been ripped apart, but they will be in and around it again, as will the University Huskies who managed to secure a draw with City during Toast Cup.

A young King’s United side is not to be underestimated, and with some shrewd offseason recruits, they should pick up a few upsets along the way.

The same can be said for the University Stingrays, who are always plucky.

Despite losing in last year’s final, it is hard to look past a star-studded Taieri Tuataras side who have not quite managed to secure the silverware to match their dominance over the last half-decade.

The Albany Alligators have kept most of their side from last year together, though have lost Felix McIntosh, who was a rock in goal, but they should be close to the top.

King’s United and the University Whales should round out the top four. Both sides have been busy recruiting in the offseason after losing some key cogs, particularly King’s who have said goodbye for now to Otago duo Craig Turner and Zac Mason.

The Southland Barbarians have replaced Topflite Tainui, which should add some extra spice to the competition.

Unfortunately, it is set to be another long season for the University Panthers, who have a new-look side.

By Nick Friedlander