THERE will be new faces, new formats and new coaches when Souths and Bathurst City begin their 2019 women's Premier League Hockey campaigns with a local derby this Saturday.
Chris Stafford has taken over the helm as Souths coach, while Lisa Quinn returns to a player-coach role with City after having a year off mentoring in 2018. They have offered their thoughts on what lies ahead.
WHILE Stafford has previously coached at Premier League level, it was as the mentor of the Souths men.
This season he has a new challenge guiding the two blues' women, an outfit which will be looking to make it to the finals for the first time since season 2015.
"It got conned into it," Stafford laughed.
"With no Souths men's Premier League this year I've got Ray Winwood-Smith helping me out a bit too, which is good."
Having guided City all the way to a premiership in her last stint as coach in 2017, Quinn returns to the job this season.
"I am excited about the season of course, Tommy Tattersall will help out as my assistant coach on the day and Phil [Baker], both Phil and Tommy will help me out at skills training too," she said.
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BATHURST City has lost talented midfielder Brooke McFadden plus experienced defenders Andrea Seymour, Sarah McCusker and Hanna Evans from the squad which reached the minor semi-final stage last season.
But Casey Bayliss will return to City's side this season to add to their attacking arsenal and Bec Bosianek has recovered from the knee surgery which sidelined her in 2018.
Former St Pat's player Erin Cobcroft joins City's ranks as does Jennifer Roberts, while Kelsey Webb is expected to make her Premier League debut in Saturday's match against Souths.
"The side is looking good, we've had a good pre-season ... we've got a bit of chemistry and are linking well already," Quinn said.
Stafford has far less change to deal with, forward Shannon Fisher the only departure, while Oberon's Emily Thomas has joined the squad.
"They're a fairly young side, but we've still got some older heads in there, which is good," he said. "I will make a few positional changes and try a few little ideas."
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NEW GAME FORMAT
INSTEAD of 35-minute halves, this year the Premier League Hockey competition will see teams battle over four periods of 15 minutes, adding a new tactical dimension to fixtures.
Stafford feels it "changes things up big time" and it means South must focus on having intensity from the opening whistle.
"We had a few slow starts last year, and now with a couple more starting points in the game we need to make sure we get that out of there pretty quickly," he said.
"But with the quarters, it does give you a chance to reset if things aren't working for you. You can talk about things and get going again."
Quinn feels it will be a matter of "trial and error" for all coaches this season in terms of substitution patterns, but is hoping that being a player-coach will help.
"It's a question of whether you let people stay on for 15 minutes and drive them to them to the point they begin to fatigue or if you upset play by having people come on and off halfway through a quarter," she said.
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BATHURST City has only lost once to Souths over the past five years, but Quinn is taking nothing for granted this Saturday.
"Souths finished really strong last year and I assume they've still got some of those older, mature players that know the game well. I'm not under-estimating them at all," she said
Stafford will be blooding junior talents in the absence of some more senior players, but wants all those on the turf to stick to Souths' game plan.
"That's probably one issue we've had over the years, from the outside looking in, we don't tend to play our own style, or have our own style, we're very reactive to what other teams are doing," he said. "It's really about just trying to give them a set up they are comfortable with and not just try to react what other teams are doing."
The game at Bob Roach Field starts at 1.20pm.