The mens first grade competition has been reduced to five teams while Illawarra and South Coast have amalgamated their womens lower division comps ahead of this weekend’s opening round of the hockey season.
Dapto and Mittagong struggled last season and have dropped out of the mens top grade leaving premiers University, Albion Park, Wests, Fairy Meadow and Robertson to contend for the title.
The mens competition extends to fifth grade with a combined 30 teams.
This weekend’s cricket finals plus the Over 55s Masters State Championships at Unanderra and other commitments means the first grade mens competition has been deferred until Sunday April 2.
The two scheduled round one games – Wests versus Fairy Meadow (6.30pm) and Albion Park versus Robertson (8pm) at the Illawarra Hockey Centre, Unanderra will be played after round two on April 7. Round two will kick off the season on April 2 with Wests taking on Albion Park in a rematch of last season’s Preliminary Final and Robertson taking on University.
Fairy Meadow have the bye and will not play their first game until taking on Wests on April 7.
Wests captain coach Jim Riddell was disappointed that the first grade mens comp had gone from seven to five teams.
‘’It’s potentially a step backwards and that’s disappointing from a competition perspective,’’ Riddell said.
‘’I can see why it has been done; to make it more competitive and having five strong clubs hopefully.
‘’I guess we will just have to see how it pans out, but hopefully we can add a team or two in the coming seasons because we need more than five teams.’’
Wests finished runners-up to Uni last season and Riddell says making the grand final is again the main goal.
The mens second, third, fourth and fifth grade comps begin on Sunday.
The 11-team first grade Illawarra South Coast womens first grade comp begins on Friday night with FigDerra taking on Wests Illawarra at Illawarra Hockey Centre, (8.15pm).
On Saturday, it’s Railway Greys v Gerringong (Croome Rd, 2.45pm), Jamberoo v Albion Park (Croome Rd, 4pm); Robertson v University (Uni Oval, 4pm) and Dapto v Avondale (IHC, 7pm). Fairy Meadow have the bye.
In a positive for womens hockey in the region the second, third and fourth grade divisions have merged under Illawarra South Coast Hockey, with 46 teams.