New Premier League Hockey (PLH) president Kent Bestwick is confident a more compact schedule will lift a competition he already describes as one of the best in NSW to even greater heights.
Bestwick takes over the PLH top job from Adam Hurford in 2017 and wasted little time in amending the draw for this year.
With player burn-out an issue, Bestwick and his new-look committee – Ray Winwood-Smith and Dave Watson are the vice presidents while Pam Shuttle remains on the executive – will reduce the season to two full rounds, as opposed to three in the case of the 2016 men’s premiership.
Starting in April and finishing in August, Bestwick predicts the 2017 men’s and women’s title races will be tougher to pick than ever.
“The clubs approached me to do it too, which I found a little surprising,” Bestwick said, last year’s men’s regular season spanned 21 rounds, the women’s 18.
“I think it will (mean higher quality hockey).
“It means clubs won’t ... be able to use the first four of five weeks of the competition to warm up. They’ll have to hit the ground running.”
He said the talent in the region is undeniable, highlighted by the throng of representative honours awarded to players who line-up weekly in the PLH.
“The women had a real bumper year in that regard,” Bestwick said.
“Certainly this competition is one of the best in NSW, probably just behind the Sydney competition; and the guys coming from there say we’re not far behind.”
Bestwick steps into the role having had the last 12 months off from administrative and coaching jobs in hockey.
He’s confident all clubs will again nominate to be part of their respective men’s and women’s premiership, with a meeting on February 8 to finalise draws.
Lithgow Panthers won both the men’s and women’s titles in 2016, knocking off Bathurst Souths and Bathurst City respectively.
Lithgow and Bathurst are obvious strongholds for both the men’s and women’s competitions and Bestwick said getting the best out of sides from Orange, Parkes and Dubbo was the challenge.
“Those centres definitely have the talent,” Bestwick said of the teams based out of the competition’s western reaches.
“If they can get some consistency they’ll be tough to beat anywhere.”