East Gippsland Hockey Association confirms season launch

Local hockey players Lachlan Thompson, Harry Broad, Mark Benfield and Jack Wrigglesworth are counting down the days to the start of the East Gippsland Hockey Association season on July 25.
Local hockey players Lachlan Thompson, Harry Broad, Mark Benfield and Jack Wrigglesworth are counting down the days to the start of the East Gippsland Hockey Association season on July 25.

EXCITMENT is brewing at local hockey clubs, with the sport set to resume senior and junior competitions next month.

The East Gippsland Hockey Association met with clubs on Tuesday night to facilitate a return to play, which will see a 10-round season across nine weekends, including one double-header.

The EGHA is currently working on a fixture for the 2020 season, with the opening round scheduled for July 25.

In order to allow enough time for a season to be fitted in before the term three school holidays, no finals series will be played in 2020.

The trade off and incentive for clubs to ensure there is still something to play for will be that the team finishing the season on top of the ladder will be crowned premier.

Currently, junior teams are able to undertake regular training activities, whilst seniors will continue with modified activities until July 13.

Sale Hockey Club president Mark Benfield said it was a great boost to have competitive hockey on the horizon.

"The last five weeks being able to train has been good and now that we know we've got a season to work towards it makes it a bit easier to be focused on where we need to go," he said.

Whilst there will still be a few things governing exactly what will be permitted at hockey facilities in coming weeks, Benfield explained that provisions were currently in place to allow the sport to be adaptable.

"They'll be changes to the way we administer some of the games," he said.

"In junior hockey all the defenders on a short corner have to wear a facemask and traditionally if you're one of the four you'll just grab one of the masks and put it on, whereas 'a' mask will now be allocated to a player and then only those players who have been allocated a mask will be able to defend the short corner."

Similarly, questions surrounding crowd numbers and canteens will require an adherence to the state government guidelines stipulated at the time.

"At the moment we could operate a canteen and the canteen committee is starting some conversations around what and how that might look like throughout the year," Benfield said.

"We can still have groups of 10 under the current guidelines as long as they are spaced out in the facility.

"As we move through the next month we'll have to start working through how we'll manage that, what will be implemented, whatever the number ratios will be maintained.

"You'll find most kids have one or two parents (come and watch) and then one or two siblings so with every game you're going to have at least 50 spectators and as the day goes on you'll see that grow as you get to the next game.

"It's certainly not impacted the same way as football or netball where they charge admission and it's critical for their operations. It's free entry here and however we need to manage it we will."

Wellington Hockey Club, which shares the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex hockey facility with Sale and Maffra, are also eager to return to play.

Club president Craig Holmes said it was now all systems go in preparation for the start of the season.

"We've had a lot of conversations in the club and externally about people's opinions on what may happen and that's with Hockey Victoria as well," he said.

"The guidelines say that we are able to play so we are doing what we can while we are still following the guidelines.

"We've got another month or so before the season starts so gradually we can rebuild it and get some confidence in the guys.

"It's good for the kids as well and their mental health to get them out and have a bit of fun because they've been out of school and at home."

Further information is expected to be distributed to clubs after the next association meeting next Thursday.

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