Southland return to top grade

Andy McLean
Andy McLean
The road trip to Invercargill is back on the schedule.

Southland has returned to the men's premier hockey grade following a short absence.

Its return lifts the number of teams from five to six, and eliminates the need for a bye.

That comes as a welcome relief. The bye was an all-too-regular occurrence, and its absence will not be missed.

But the addition of Southland does mean there will be some travel involved.

It pulled out of the grade "two or three" seasons ago when that became an issue.

Otago Hockey Association [OHA] general manager Andy McLean said Southland's return "required a bit of a commitment". But the team only has to travel through to Dunedin every other weekend.

"We desperately wanted to make sure we didn't have a five-team competition again," McLean said.

"Obviously a bye with that number of teams is problematic. So we spoke to Southland and we wanted to make it work for them.

"They have a group of players who are keen, so it was about getting to a point they were comfortable with the logistics.

"We've agreed there will be a game down there every second week. When you share the travel around the other five teams it is pretty doable."

McLean said the OHA would "factor in" the transportation costs from "our end" to lift the burden on the Dunedin-based clubs.

"They are happy because the five-team grade had some challenges, so the addition of the sixth team has been met positively."

The season gets under way tomorrow. The format is for three full round robins followed by a semifinal and final.

"Southland will be using it as an opportunity to prepare their squad for the national seniors, so we will get a team that is really competitive and coming up here to progress their hockey and take the opportunity.

"I think they'll add a lot to the competition."

Southland players will be required to play in their local competition in order to qualify for the team which will play in the Dunedin grade.


 

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