Souths coach Dan Coulson has conceded his NSW Country representative depleted side won’t move out of third and the remaining two regular round matches are merely preparing for next month’s minor semi-final against Maitland.
For the following two weekends Coulson will miss forwards John Fernance and Luke Witchard as well as defenders Tristan Hunt and Simon Massey at the Australian Country Championships, which start in Townsville on Friday.
It means the quartet won’t line up for the Lions at Newcastle in Hunter Coast Premier Hockey League encounters against Wests on Sunday and Norths seven days later.
But regardless of results Coulson says that Souths (21 points), who finish with a bye, “can’t go down and can’t go up” on the competition ladder before the play-offs with second-placed Norths (25) too far ahead with a superior goal difference and Maitland (16) too far behind in fourth.
“We can’t finish top two now,” Coulson said.
“We’re stuck in third so it’s just all about getting a few things in place for the first semi-final.”
Coulson will also be without Ehren Hazell, who was last week named in the Australian under-21 squad.
Wests co-captain said the fifth-placed Rosellas (9), who can’t make the top four. will be at full strength.
Elsewhere in round 19 and both University’s Ben Hanlan and Gosford’s Ben Ferguson are also on NSW Country duties. The Students (3) host Maitland and Gosford (29) meets The Entrance (5). Norths have the bye.
LADDER: Gosford 29, Norths 25, Souths 21, Maitland 16, Wests 9, The Entrance 5, University 3
The Newcastle District Women’s Hockey Association premier league match-of-the-round between Oxfords and Regals will be missing four players at the Australian Country Championships in Townsville.
Oxfords trio Ellen Seaniger, Christie Underwood and Megan Macauslan will line up for the Australian Defence Force at the annual national tournament while Regals defender Katie Kelly has earned a NSW Country uniform.
Second-placed Oxfords are only two points ahead of Regals, who are in a three-way share of fourth, in the race towards this year’s semi-final series.
Tigers and Central also go head-to-head at Newcastle International Hockey Centre on Saturday.
Down at Wyong and Souths visit Gosford in a battle for third while leaders Avoca Beach tackle last-placed Erina.
LADDER: Avoca Beach 42, Oxfords 37, Souths 36, Tigers, Gosford, Regals 35, Central 26, Erina 17.