Spitfires going into unchartered water

THE new coach of the Albury Spitfires will take a “suck it and see” approach to their first season playing hockey in Canberra.

But Matt Smart, a veteran of 10 years playing at the elite level in Sydney and a former Spitfire, expects his squad to be highly competitive.

Late last year Hockey Albury Wodonga split with the Victorian Premier League after almost two decades.

The Victorians demanded all clubs field a team in a reserves competition and neither they or HAW could find a compromise.

But the upside is fewer games, less travel and no effect on the Border’s Sunday club competition.

Smart said he had no idea what to expect.

“They might play a different type of game — different structures and systems — compared to what we were used to in Melbourne,” he said.

“It will be a learning curve — I doubt they will play man on man, more likely a press.

“It is a new era.”

Smart believes being a non-playing coach may also help the Spitfires.

“There have been a number of player coaches in recent years and I think having someone watching from the sideline might help,” he said.

“I watched about five games last year and I thought their structure let them down, playing more centrally rather than using the width of the park and bringing the ball into the top of the circle.”

Smart will use a sliding defence and forward press in a game plan his squad has already shown could pay dividends.

“It requires a high degree of fitness,” he said.

“It’s about the rest of the team sliding across the park, shutting down the passing channels.

“We played two 20 minutes and a half-hour against Mentone at the weekend and it took two thirds to get through to our boys what we wanted.

“After conceding goals in the first two, we kept them scoreless in the final third, they never got into the circle and we scored four goals of our own.

“That’s a positive sign.”

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