UNITED stalwart Tony Jones has taken over as coach of the Albury-Wodonga Strikers.
Jones, who has been coaching at club level for the past 30 years, will have his first taste of State League hockey on Saturday when the Strikers open their season against Latrobe University in Melbourne.
He will lead one of the youngest representative sides Hockey Albury-Wodonga has produced with Nan Latta, Alison Nicholson, Amy Allen and Sadie Butler the only players over 20.
“I’m excited and I guess a bit nervous as well,” Jones said yesterday.
“We will be putting a very young side out on the paddock.
“Besides probably four players, our entire side will be between 16 and 18 years old.
“The girls have been training really well and are looking forward to the weekend.”
Andrew Maggs will take over from Andrew Monte at the helm of the Spitfires.
Monte and reigning best and fairest winner Sam McIntosh have joined Premier League club Footscray, while Ian Beath and Matt Sawyer have retired.
Gerard Wild has returned to Albury from Melbourne and will line up this weekend.
“We have lost four of our better players from last year and they will be difficult to replace, but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Maggs said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm about the season ahead.”
Peter Barber, Jeremy Maggs and Joshua Pritchard have been appointed as co-captains.
Maggs co-coached with Shayne Newell in 2011 and has spent the past 15 years as a player with the Spitfires.
Latrobe University is one of four sides to be promoted from State League Three this season along with Casey, Greater Dandenong and Werribee.
Long-time rivals Kew, Melbourne University and Brunswick are expected to be two of the Spitfires’ most formidable opponents.