Orange Wanderers will experience a monumental changing of the guard in the 2017 men’s Premier League Hockey competition with at least six experienced guns not playing this season.
Having been mainstays at the club since Wanderers was formed in 2012, Daryl Kennewell, Nic Sharpe, Zac Royle, Andrew Rutledge and last year’s co-coaches Keiran Gentles and Matt Johnson have stepped away from the club ahead of this winter.
The mass exodus means new mentor Mark Pengilly will guide a young Wanderers side during this year’s campaign, which for the Orange club starts this weekend at home against premiership powerhouse Lithgow Panthers.
Pengilly admits 2017 appears set to be a learning curve season and called on the younger guys with premier league experience to step up in the absence of stack of old heads.
“They’re keen to do well and importantly they’re keen to learn,” Pengilly said, before dodging any form of prediction ahead of the season.
“I’ll tell you how we’ll go after this weekend,” he laughed.
“We’ve lost a stack of players and the guys we’ve had at training are largely those that have come through the under 18s boys’ rep side.
“They’ve played a lot of hockey together so cohesion should be fine early in the year. I think we’ll learn a lot this season though.”
Training since January, Wanderers look likely to be led by the likes of Adam Skelton, James Shakeshaft, Connor Morris and Tom Powell.
While the club also adds newcomers Tom Peacock and Logan Dobell, from Dubbo and Parkes respectively, ahead of the competition start-date this weekend.
“You could definitely say we’re starting fresh,” Pengilly said.
“There’s a number of guys that’ll have to stand up this season. Young Jimmy Shakeshaft, we’ll probably look to him a bit more through the midfield.”
After this weekend’s clash with Panthers – a massive litmus test for the new group – Wanderers tackle what is an intriguing opening month of the premiership.
The Orange club will take on Lithgow Zig Zag at the Parkes gala day in round two, before hosting Bathurst Souths and then travelling to Parkes again, this time to play United, in round four.
Rounds two to four shape as win-able games for Pengilly’s side as it looks to hit the ground running in the new season with a vastly new squad.
Both the men’s and women’s PLH seasons begin on Saturday, April 22.
Both Bathurst City versus St Pat's games have been deferred due to the Men's Masters.