Southern Dogs side mix of youth and experience

Finn Ward
Finn Ward
The Southern Dogs have named a squad which quite possibly features the oldest and youngest players in the National Hockey League.

Dogs manager John Thorn said he would be surprised if former Black Stick James Nation, at 41, was not the oldest player in the league.

At the other end of the spectrum there is 17-year-old King's High School pupil Finn Ward and "there won't be too many schoolboys in the NHL", Thorn said.

Cue those dreadful cliches about having a good mix of youth and experience. But maybe it is actually true this time.

Nation retired from international hockey in 2009 having played more than 100 games for the Black Sticks.

But while he gave the game away at the top level he has continued to play high-level hockey.

He moved to Dunedin in 2010 and linked up with the Dogs.

Southern pulled out of the league in 2016 and Nation was unavailable last year. But the vastly experienced defender has returned this season and has also been helping lead the training sessions in the absence of Auckland-based coach Clive Daniels.

Ward is at the other end in his career.

The attacking midfielder was recently named in New Zealand under-18 talent squad, while his brother, Jordan Ward, a classy defender, is in the New Zealand under 21 team.

They are two of the more promising players to emerge from the region recently and will link up with Black Sticks newcomer Malachi Buschl.

Buschl (18) made his international debut during the tour of India in July and gave a good account of himself.

He has since been named in the under-21 men's squad for the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia in October alongside Jordan Ward.

The Dogs will have to make do without midfielders Nick Ross and Nick Elder.

They played last year but are unavailable alongside Black Sticks Blair Tarrant, Hugo Inglis and Kane Russell who have overseas club commitments.

Striker Kieran O'Connor and goalie Dom Dixon have returned to their home regions and will be big losses.

Dixon's spot has been taken by Canterbury guest player Thomas Mallon. He is probably the No2 goalie in Canterbury and has opted to play for Southern to get more game time.

The Dogs have named Joe O'Connor in the squad but are waiting for clearance from Auckland before his spot can be confirmed. They are also seeking a release for another Auckland-based player to complete the 18-strong squad.

The squad features 12 Dunedin-based players which is a shift from previous years when Southern would often struggle to get good numbers to training sessions with so many players based elsewhere.

"What we are hoping to do is grow our player base and have more players available to us," Thorn said.

"It is really giving us that pathway for our A team and the under-21s to come through.

"It is very hard to prepare for a campaign when you only have five or six local players being picked."

Southern will open its campaign with a home game against Canterbury in September.

The tournament resumes in Wellington a week later and will conclude on September 23.

The men's competition has been reduced from eight to seven teams as Northland is not fielding a team.

The top four sides will contest the semifinals with the winners progressing the final.

The Southern Storm women's squad is expected to be named next week.

Southern Dogs NHL squad

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 (waiting clearance), Jack Gilbert, Craig Turner.
● One more squad member to add.

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