Spitfires heading to the great unknown

IT’S not an ideal start to the season — four of the starting line-up injured and a key forward set to depart the club in the next month.

But Matt Smart believes the Spitfires have a squad that can be more than competitive in its first foray into the ACT Capital League.

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 nor HAW could find a compromise.

The men go into a competition against teams with National Hockey competition players, one with two Hockeyroos.

But Smart says the Spitfires have been training for the past three months, working on a game plan to thwart that threat.

“You can only play your game,” he said.

“We have been working on a few scenarios and had a good hit-out over the Easter carnival but we will have to wait and see how that plays out against their set-up.

“I think this is a good side but the reality is until we see the other teams we really don’t know where we stand.”

The Spitfires were considered certain finalists in the Victorian State league 1 competition last year but faded in the back half of the season to finish outside of the top-four.

The standard of the ACT competition is expected to sit somewhere between State League 1 and the Victorian elite Premier League.

The Spitfires begin their Capital League 1 season with a home game against Canberra United this afternoon at the Albury Hockey Centre.

“We think it will be pretty close to the Premier League standard,” Smart said.

“St Pat’s apparently have a couple of national players, I think it something like a current and former player but the competition also plays in the national hockey league and so those players are spread through the other sides.

“The other unknown is what systems they play, traditionally those in NSW and the ACT play a similar set up to soccer in their structure, while Victoria uses slide defences and presses to stop you coming out of your backline.”

Smart will play some of the development squad today along with veteran Pete Barber who will be lost to the Spitfires bec-ause of a move to Sydney in the coming weeks.

“I’m confident that we have a quality squad and a host of emerging players who will only get better as the year wears on.”