Normally, Orange Ex-Services’ task in this weekend’s opening round of the 2017 women’s Premier League Hockey season couldn’t be any tougher.
The blue and golds face reigning champions Lithgow Panthers.
But, considering the buzz flying around the region in the lead-up to the season, Saturday’s season-opener might just play out a touch differently.
The rumour mill has been abuzz in the off-season, suggesting the reigning premiers have lost several guns leading into the 2017 winter.
Not that Ex-Services are paying any attention to the rumours.
“That’s news to us, we haven’t been too worried about anything else coming from other teams or clubs,” Ex-Services midfielder Leanne Kennewell said.
“We’ve just been focusing on what we’re doing.
“You never really know what the other teams are bringing to the table until you’ve actually played them yourself anyway.”
Regardless of what Panthers bring to Orange player wise, Kennewell said, the reigning champions will be incredibly tough to topple.
“Maybe they have lost a few, maybe not, but Panthers are always a tough side to play. They’re good in front of goal so we’ll have to defend pretty well I think,” Kennewell said.
They’ll be doing that defending without former Australian star Madie Smith, who is taking a year off premier league, and gun sweeper Ellen Van Hoek, who has moved to Confederates this winter.
“We’ve lost a few but we’ve picked up a few too,” Kennewell explained.
“Kayla Orrock is one who has come back, she was playing in Darwin so she’ll give us a bit more experience and a bit of a different perspective on ways to play the game. She’ll be fit too.
“A few of the main core of players from the last years are still here but as I said we’ve lost a few and picked up a few across the board.
“It’s tough to know what we can do until we play anyway I think.
“I’m really excited actually, to see what we can do as a side.”
Despite losing stars, Kennewell sent a message to Ex-Services’ opposition – don’t expect to run over us.
“We won’t be easybeats, by any means,” she said.
“We’ll be confident we can be competitive against every team in the competition.”
Ex-Services host Panthers from 12.30pm.
Ex-Services’ season-opener against Lithgow is one of three games in Orange on Saturday.
All three of the colour city’s sides – Confederates and Wanderers are the other two – will line-up at home, in a huge day.