Redbacks Chloe Wotherspoon, Blake Wotherspoon and Ryan Farrell gear up for the season ahead.
Redbacks Chloe Wotherspoon, Blake Wotherspoon and Ryan Farrell gear up for the season ahead. Scott Powick

Redbacks ready for return

TWEED Border Hockey’s top-flight is set for a testosterone injection this season with Murwillumbah (Redbacks) and Casuarina both making a return to Division One duties.

Absent from the 2010 season due to a shortage of first-grade talent, both clubs spent the year in Division Two refocussing, regrouping and rebuilding for 2011.

And with player development at the core of operations, Redbacks’ Stuart Maloney believes the club’s young guns are ready to ruffle a few feathers.

“The reason we didn’t enter a side last year was because a large number of our younger players coming through just weren’t ready to be slotted straight into div one,” Maloney said.

“Instead, the club decided to break up the older and experienced players and mix the younger blokes in with them to gain more experience.

“We nominated them for div two as that’s where we thought they were most suited and in my opinion it has worked.”

Although many of the Redbacks and Casuarina squad will have little or no experience in the top-flight, changes to this year’s competition will only help level the playing field.

The return of the two prodigal clubs takes the tally to nine First Division men’s teams that will line up in the newly created Tweed-Lismore Combined Premier League.

The men will play two rounds of home-and-away fixtures, before being split into two pools with the top four teams playing in group one and the bottom five in group two.

Team one will play team four and team two will take on team three in a semi-final format and the following week the winning teams will play in the grand final.

The lowest-ranked side will miss two weeks of hockey come the finals, but Maloney is confident his troops won’t be sidelined.

“Together with our home-grown young talent we also have a number of players returning to the club which is great,” Maloney said.

“It is a team we hope to develop into a successful one and I think we should have a successful 2011 season.”

Once a winner is crowned, the teams will then split into northern and southern zones, with the Tweed teams to play each other once before their own local finals format.

The Division One women’s competition will be the same as last year.

They will play one local round, join Lismore for one combined round and the combined finals before one further local round and the season-ending local finals.

Other changes to this year’s TBH include replacing Friday night’s senior bouts with under-16 action and giving clubs the option to play fixtures at 8pm on Saturdays.

The under-16 boys and girls will play on the artificial turf in Murwillumbah each week.

“The Tweed Border Hockey Association hopes these positive changes will be a step in the right direction,” spokeswoman Karen Iwanusha said.

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