South Canterbury hockey players face tough task at national senior tournament
South Canterbury's senior men's hockey side have a tough task ahead of them if they want to replicate their fourth placing from 2016.
The side has been placed alongside Canterbury, Counties Manukau, Southland and North Harbour in a strong pool at the national senior men's tournament in Wellington, beginning next week.
South Canterbury have eight new faces for the 2017 event, with 10 players returning from 2016 tournament in Northland, where they surprised a number of teams.
The other pool sees six teams fight it out for the top two spots, Otago, Waikato, Wellington, Northland, Tasman and the New Zealand Defence Force.
Ashburton-based Sam Moore, who is player-coach for Wakanui, will captain South Canterbury, with Cambridge player Sam Taylor named as his understudy.
Representation among the club teams is fairly even with Cambridge and Northern Hearts each supplying five players and Wakanui three.
Four players from outside the province, with affiliations to South Canterbury, are included.
Temuka, the reigning men's champions supply one player, with Hayden Shaw and Warren Morgan unavailable and Andrew Kirkcaldie narrowly missing out.
South Canterbury coach Ben Grant said they were excited at the challenge ahead.
"We have put together a side that has a much more local flavour than last year, with all bar one of the players currently or previously playing hockey in South Canterbury.
"We also have a much younger side than last year, with the aim of keeping the speed of the game at a high level as the tournament progresses."
He expects strong competition in the pool stage but knows the team has the goods to deliver.
"We have a really tough pool, but know that if we can string together some solid performances and find our way into the semis then anything can happen on the day."
Grant feels competing at a tournament like this is great for the region.
"It's just awesome to see little South Canterbury footing it with the bigger associations, it's a credit to the guys for putting their hand up and being committed."
Moore will be expected to lead the way but others who will be looking to perform strongly include Junior Black Sticks goalkeeper and squad member Jesse Drake, George Foster, veteran defender Simon Cooper and striker Matt McAtamney.
Tom Johnstone, Drake, Gareth McKerchar and Gareth Stewart add plenty of outside experience to the team, as all four played senior hockey in either Christchurch or Dunedin this year.
The team also features youngsters Jono Ellis, who was part of the national under-18 winning Canterbury team, while Reagan Stevenson and Tim Sheed played for South Canterbury at the national association under-18 tournament in Christchurch.
First up for South Canterbury is a clash with North Harbour, before facing Southland the following day.
At a glance
South Canterbury: Sam Moore, (Wakanui), Simon Cooper (Northern Hearts), Sam Taylor (Cambridge), Josh McArthur (Northern Hearts), Brad Going (Wakanui), Reagan Stevenson (Northern Hearts), Simon Small (Cambridge), Jono Ellis (Cambridge), George Foster (Temuka), Tom Johnstone (Otago University), Jethro Palmer (Cambridge), Matt McAtamney (Cambridge), Hayden Sinclair (Wakanui), Tim Sheed (Northern Hearts), Alex Betts (Northern Hearts), Gareth McKerchar (Southern United), Gareth Stewart (Southern United), Jesse Drake (Taieri).