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The Dogs were absent last year as Southern Hockey decided against sending teams to the national league.
The Dogs made the final in 2015 in Whangarei, so it was disappointing they did not return last year.
But times have moved on and a relatively new look Dogs side fronts up at Wellington for the nine day tournament.
The side starts with a tough match against defending champion Midlands this afternoon.
Coach Mark Kake said the side had been training hard but nothing beat solid match practice.
The team beat Southland 13-0 a couple of weeks ago and then beat Southland Minors 8-1 last Sunday in a practice match.
The Minors side scored the first goal but the Dogs replied well and came away with a comfortable win.
A game against Canterbury arranged for earlier this month but did not come about, due to scheduling conflicts.
Kake said the team was seeking to play a different style than people expected.
"To be brutally honest, it is going to be tough ... we didn’t go last year, so we are starting from scratch," he said.
"They will expect us to play orthodox but we have been looking a few different things.
"We have talked about play and how we should try to be a bit unorthodox at times. Look to change things up."
The side has five players from outside the area, all who have southern connections. Nick Ross, Nick Elder, Johnny Thorn, Lachlan Davidson and Joe O’Connor will line up for the side.
Kake said the side had not trained together much, which was not ideal, but it had to adjust.
"We have got pretty good ball handlers.
"It is going to be interesting, as we are a bit out of the way down here. We haven’t played any of these guys in warm-up games so they don’t know what to expect."
The side is missing Black Sticks Hugo Inglis, Blair Tarrant and Kane Russell, all who are playing overseas and unavailable to play for the Dogs.
Kake said it would have been great to have them on board but the timing of the tournament did not fall in with the trio’s schedules.
Other teams had brought in overseas players but Southern Hockey decided against it, wanting to concentrate on its own players.
Former Black Stick James Nation has business commitments and is unavailable.
Kake was hoping for a big tournament from goalkeeper Dom Dixon.
The side lacks experience but he hoped the younger players could learn from the tournament.
At a glance
Andrew Beverland, James Bishop, Malachi Buschl, Lachlan Davidson, Dom Dixon, Nick Elder, Nathan Gilbert, Daniel Guthrie, Garrick Hately, Sterling Milicich, Matt Moore, Kieran O’Connor, Vincent O’Connor, Joe O’Connor, Campbell Paton, Nick Ross, Pratik Thamboor, Johnny Thorn.
Today: v Midlands, 4.30pm
Monday: v North Harbour, 5pm
Wednesday: v Capital, 7pm