City Bears and East Lismore plunge into hockey unknown
CITY Bears and East Lismore plunge into the unknown for today's Far North Coast Premier League opener at Grafton Hockey Complex.
The A-grade match at 4.15pm will be the first of its kind played in the Jacaranda city and the first test for teams from the Grafton and Far North Coast associations against their neighbours.
But what makes today's encounter more unpredictable is that both sides have been hit hard with player unavailability.
This weekend clashes with the NSW Under-18 Championships in Newcastle and Bears boast eight of those players in its ranks. Easts also have players away at that tournament.
"We have another five away in A and B grade and apparently one of Easts' players has a wedding," Bears captain Dave Dart said.
"So this game could be a bit of a lottery.
"It's a fantastic concept and I'm really happy to be part of it; it's just unfortunate the first-round clashes with the under-18s being away."
Bears have enjoyed a solid start to the Grafton season with two wins from two games.
Dart is wary some of the northern counterparts could provide the Grafton sides with an eye-opening experience.
"A couple of the Lismore sides might be a little bit stronger than our guys," he said.
"It's a good test that we're looking forward to.
"Coraki and Northern Star should be very strong and I've been told Ballina have built up well this year."
Ballina will feature in the Sunday fixture at Grafton against Royals in A-grade at 2.55pm.
Far North Coast teams have been involved in a similar concept. Tweed Hockey and Ballina captain Brett Crawford was confident the new premier league would be successful.
"It's good to break it up rather than face the same old sides," Crawford said.
"Playing against new players is always a breath of fresh air and the bus trips are a good social outing.
"We're looking forward to it. Apart from some second-hand information, we don't know too much about our Royals and will find out on Sunday."