Kicking off a Premier League Hockey season after just two weeks of training is hard, but kicking it off against the side that stole the premiership off you last winter is even harder.
That's the assignment Pete Shea's CYMS girls are faced with after they were drawn defending champions Lithgow Panthers for their first-up meeting in what will be a condensed 2020 winter of PLH action.
In just their second season back as a stand-alone club in the PLH, CYMS lost to Panthers in last year's grand final and after losing some players in the lead-up to this year Shea says the round one assignment will go a long way to determining his girls' potential for this season.
"Panthers have been in the top one or two sides for a long, long time," Shea said.
"Them and St Pat's are the benchmarks so if we can test ourselves early in the competition we can see where we are in the scheme of things and readjust our goals."
Even though CYMS reached the grand final last year, the departure of several players - including former Australian representative Jade Georgiou - has Shea tempering his expectations on what is a very youthful side this season.
"Jade's clearly a big loss to our side in terms of the knowledge she has and the direction she provides - also her skill as well," he said.
"She's got a young family and has made other things a priority over hockey which is totally understandable.
"We've lost three or four players from last year's playing group. For us it's about starting again and seeing where we stand with the rest of the competition."
While the schedule has been released, Shea's treating the PLH season as a day-by-day proposition and thinks sides are better off prioritising fun over winning premierships.
"We've shifted the focus of our goals a bit this year to enjoyment rather than focusing too much on results," he said.
"Things can change so quickly. We want to have fun but we also know if you lose three games to start off the year you're a real risk of missing out on the finals series so we've got to be mindful of that."
Something that works against Shea's side is its youth and considering no one had access to a hockey field during the layoff, he thinks his outfit might have more ground to cover than some of the others.
"Our side's got so many young, developing players who haven't had a chance to build on their skills from last year," he said.
"The two-three week build up is going to be difficult with so many young kids.
"Everyone's going to be rusty to start off with, though... that's to be expected."
In addition to the CYMS-Panthers grand final rematch, the opening PLH round on July 18 will feature a Bathurst derby as City and Souths square off.
In the other two meetings, Parkes will travel to Orange to face Confederates while Ex-Services will host St Pat's.
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