IT has often been said that good things come to those who wait, and if that is the case then Bathurst teams are set for a bumper Premier League Hockey season.
The 2017 competition commences this Saturday, but only one of the six Bathurst hopefuls will be in action.
Souths will meet Confederates in their women’s season opener, ending a 252-day wait since their 2016 campaign came to an end with a minor semi-final defeat at the hands of Ex-Services.
Both the St Pat’s and Bathurst City men’s and women’s outfits were schedule to go head-to-head on Saturday, but due to a clash with the men’s masters state titles, those games have been deferred.
For Bathurst City’s men’s side, which did not make the finals last season and has the bye next Saturday, it will be 269 days between Premier League Hockey matches when they finally take to the field.
It will be a tough assignment for City, who faces defending premiers Lithgow Panthers first up.
Panthers beat Souths in last season’s men’s Premier League Hockey decider, and the two blues have been allocated the bye in the opening round of 2017. It means the wait between games for the Ray Winwood-Smith coached outfit is 231 days.
In spite of all that, Bathurst Hockey president Libby Milligan feels the city can once again make its presence felt in both men’s and women’s competitions.
“I think we would definitely have one men’s team and if we’re lucky we might get two men’s teams into the grand final this year,” she said.
“With the women’s, Panthers are always hard to beat. I think we’ll certainly have one team in the grand final and at least two in the top three.”
She is proud to see that Bathurst is the best represented centre in the league, with the Souths, St Pat’s and Bathurst City clubs fielding both men’s and women’s teams.
Lithgow has four sides in action – Zig Zag and Panthers men’s and women’s – and Orange three in Wanderers men plus Ex-Services and Confederates in the women’s league.
Parkes has one men’s and one women’s team, while Dubbo has withdrawn from both sides of the draw.
“Orange, who are a much bigger area and feed from a much bigger area, don’t seem to be able to keep it going like us … number wise they struggle to get one men’s team and two women’s teams in the comp,” Milligan said.
“We are very lucky in Bathurst that we have such great sport overall, not just hockey, and to spread all the kids across those teams and keep them going into their late-teens and early 20s is hard work.”
Milligan credits much of Bathurst’s ongoing strength in Premier League – both in terms of player numbers and competitiveness – on the junior competitions in the city.
“All of the junior girls, all of their age groups, are very competitive. The junior boys have dropped off a little bit, but the under 15s will be good and they are building from the bottom,” she said.
“The junior ranks are starting to grow again, the minkey, the non-competitive, so the junior boys will build.
“Unfortunately we lose some kids to uni, which happens every year, but we remain competitive.”