Southern Lakes favoured

Changes in team personnel have left the field wide open as the Southern Open Teams Event begins in Invercargill this weekend.

Perennial champion Southern Lakes may well extend its unbeaten run, although Otago is looking to cause an upset.

Otago will benefit from the transfer of the Hartono brothers from Southern Lakes following several years based in Queenstown. The youngest of the three siblings, Marco, is rapidly approaching the level of play displayed by Peter and Thomas.

Talisman and captain Paddy Ou gives Otago experience and the benefits of recent hard match play in Wellington interclub play.

Ayesha Horley and Kaitlyn Wilkinson lead a youthful Otago women's line-up.

Pippa Sherriff now has solid experience at this level, and division one newcomers Charlotte Byers and Mya Haigh will not be overawed.

Southland caused a boilover this time last year, beating Southern Lakes 7-5. Only a narrow loss to Otago denied it a clean sweep of Round 1 ties and it will hope to rectify matters this time round.

With ex-US college player Sky Lovill and the highly rated Shaylee Sime in its ranks, Southland's ambitions will be justifiably high.

North Otago has the talented George McAleer in its line-up, along with Phillips sisters Mackenzie and Jordyn. Nicky Wallace and Belinda Hirst lend the team an air of authority.

This weekend's first round is the prelude to February's second and deciding round.

Division two ties will be staged in Oamaru and Te Anau. South Canterbury will be looking to establish its future division one credentials by improving on its runner-up result of last season.

FRASER RICHARDSON

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