Central to pose biggest battle

HOCKEY Albury Wodonga’s Capital League teams travel to Canberra today for the toughest test of their new competition.

The Spitfires take on defending champions Central, which is unbeaten after four games and has banged in 33 goals.

The Strikers take on the same opponent, but with a little less imposing record than the men.

Coach Tony Jones said the Strikers needed to sharper at the start.

“We probably went into last week’s game a little complacent having not really been tested in the opening games,” he said.

“We gave up two goals early and then played catch-up for the rest of the game.

“Like many of these teams we know very little of Central, but looking at their results they seem to be on a similar trajectory to us.”

Jones said the Strikers would be without young gun Brooke Purtell, who was injured in the Steakhouse Cup against Wagga last Sunday, and would tinker with its line-up ahead of captain Nan Latta’s departure on national duty.

“Nan is away for something like six weeks with the Australian over-40 side in Holland,” he said.

“We are making some changes with that and moving Alison Nicholson to the middle of the attack — Sadie Butler has gone from defence into centre half and Sam Daley will drop back into the backline.”

Spitfires coach Matt Smart said his team faced a tough game with a long injury list that saw five of the regular starting squad missing.

“Clearly Central is a well-polished outfit, but until we play them we don’t know exactly how polished,” he said.

“We may be a little undermanned but there is little point flooding the defence against these sides because generally they move the ball well enough to overcome that.

“It is often better to go man on man — make them more accountable.

“We can only stick to our gameplan, make minor changes depending on their structure and learn as we go.

“What we have found so far is we need to lift the speed of our hockey, our intensity and talk.

“If we can do that against this side that will be a good start.”