THERE'S no doubt that experience counts when it comes to building a successful campaign, but in the eyes of Souths stalwart Ali Stanford, youth shapes as the key factor for her side in 2022.
In fact Stanford, who is one of only a handful of Souths players to have experience in a Central West Premier League Hockey finals series, says the two blues are in critical need of young guns.
"They might be small but they're definitely willing to get in and have a go, they've got a can-do attitude which is great," she said.
"Sometimes younger kids can shy away at training and things like that, but not these kids, they're happy to have a chat and get in and have a go.
"It's really good to see because hockey needs this, hockey needs people like that."
It was one of those young talents, Pip Webb, who scored Souths' opening goal of the season last Saturday as she slotted home a cross from fellow rising star Sam Brown.
From that confidence building moment Souths went on to beat Parkes 3-0 to get their first win of the season on the board.
Stanford knows there's still plenty of challenges to come for Souths, but that moment when Webb was embraced and high-fived by her team-mates highlights the mood within the squad.
"It definitely feels different, I don't know if it's the new young ones coming through or our coaches Annie [Pakinga] and Scott [Hanrahan], their presence this year, but it's definitely got a different vibe about it this year which is great, it's very uplifting," Stanford said.
"It's good to have the young ones come through and be positive and energetic, especially for us older ones."
It has been seven years since Souths last played in a finals series, but even that 2015 campaign was one of ebbs and flows.
On the way to finishing the regular season in third they suffered a 7-1 loss to Lithgow Panthers, but they also handed Lithgow Zig Zag a crushing 21-0 loss.
Stanford scored five goals in that record win with current Souths team-mates Emma Siejka, Sarah White (nee Watterson) and Ash Corby also part of the remarkable victory.
Souths went on to exit the title chase that year with a 5-0 loss to the now defunct Ex-Services in the minor semi-final.
There has certainly been hope since then, but each season Souths has been left thinking what could have been.
"Last year we thought we had it, we thought we could have been in the finals, but COVID turned it all on its head," Stanford said.
"This year we're really determined to get there and I believe we've got the team to do so."
This Saturday Souths will host Orange United at Bob Roach Field and Stanford knows it will be another good test.
"They're a good outfit, they're a good bunch of girls and a well-drilled side so we'll be put to the test," she said.
"It will be a cracking game to watch I'd imagine, we're all pumped and our coach Scott, his daughter actually plays for United - so it will be very interesting."
Like Souths, United has posted one win through the opening fortnight of competition, opening their account last Saturday with a 4-0 result against Bathurst City.
Saturday's clash at Bob Roach Field starts at 12.20pm.
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