Women's hockey competition expected to be closely contested
It's shaping up as a strong women's hockey division one competition for 2017.
Defending champions Hampstead will again be the side to beat but Timaru Girls' High School and Cambridge will be hoping to change that.
Cambridge have a similar side to last season and will be looking to improve on their semifinal performance.
The side is filled with experience, while younger players Kerryn Jensen and Molly Richardson will be hoping for big seasons.
Cambridge coach Leighton Brehaut said they have assembled a good squad.
"We have upwards of 80 percent of the side back from last year, so hopefully we can improve on 2016."
Facing the defending champions first up would a difficult assignment.
"It certainly won't be easy."
Brehaut said they're focused on going all the way in 2017.
"We want to lift that trophy at the end of the season, that's our aim."
He said Faith Turner-Walker, Lois Bagrie, Beth Parker, Tash Dockrill, Leigh Brunton and Keri-Anne Bell would be worth watching.
"They're pretty experienced and will help our younger players but it's a good squad overall."
Timaru Girls' High School coach Tim Greenall said they've retained a strong contingent of the 2016 squad.
"We have a good wee squad with some very good players and a number of young players keen to step up."
He said Emily Bell, Jenna Rae-McIntyre, Meg Simpson and goalkeeper Sheryl Carter would be key players.
Their first up clash is against Craighead next Thursday.
Geraldine manager Jacqui Swales, who also plays, said they have a number of new players this season.
"It'll be interesting to see how we go. It might take a few weeks for us to gel."
She said they had a settled squad, featuring a mix of youth and experience.
"We are excited to get under way. It will be a good first up challenge against Hampstead/Collegians."
Swales said Connie McFarlane and Tara Marshall would be two players worth keeping an eye on.
Hampstead coach Rex Turnbull said it would be a challenging season for his side.
"We've lost about six players from last season who had plenty of experience so it'll be interesting to see how we go.
"I wouldn't say we are favourites this year, we've lost captain Jess McCloy."
He feels the competition this year will be stronger.
"I think all the teams will be more even. The schoolgirls are a year older and a year smarter at hockey, so it's going to be a great tournament."
Turnbull said Cambridge would be tough first up.
"It's not going to be easy. It never is against Cambridge."
Hampstead Collegians coach Karen McIntyre said they had retained about half their squad from last season and were looking to take it game by game.
"We want to be there at the end but it's one game at a time."
She said Geraldine were an enjoyable clash.
"We always have good matches against them."
Craighead have a number of players back from last season and will be hoping to start positively against Timaru Girls' next week in their Anzac tournament clash which doubles as a women's division one fixture.