Teammates one weekend, rivals the next.
That’s the case for Seth Roach, Ky Willott, Angus Abbo, Jayden Bisson, Seb Rollings and Jarod Gurr fresh from combining forces for Newcastle’s under-18 representative squad.
Together they helped defend Newcastle’s state-championship title in Bathurst, but this time around the silverware won’t be shared between the six of them.
Roach and Willott play for Norths. Abbo, Bisson, Rollings and Gurr line-up with Souths. The traditional Hunter Coast Premier Hockey League rivals meet at Broadmeadow on Saturday in the third annual ‘red and blue derby’.
“It happens like that sometimes,” Dave Willott, coach of both Norths and Newcastle under 18s, said.
“It’s similar to State of Origin where you’re teammates one week and playing against each other the next.”
The club’s four opposing grades – first, second, third and fifth – go head-to-head with the most successful overall scoring the trophy.
The spoils, since 2016, are split at one apiece.
But even more pressing is the congestion on this year’s main competition ladder, with just three points separating the top five teams after the opening eight rounds.
“That top five is really tight and you just can’t afford to drop two in a row,” Willott said with Norths in a share of the competition lead.
“Otherwise you slip back and it’s hard to catch up.”
Fifth-placed Souths find themselves in that very predicament following a 7-1 loss away to reigning premiers Gosford on Thursday night.
Souths player-coach John Fernance said it was the “best game I’ve seen them play” but he knows the turnaround has to be quick for his troops.
“The main thing will be putting it behind us,” Fernance said.
“We’ve got to get back to last Sunday and that confidence boost.”
Fernance expects all of his players to back up, including Rollings. Abbo has also been named in Souths’ top grade. Bisson and Gurr are in reserves.
Norths have Willott junior in the side while Roach will play from the bench. The Blues also welcome James Piper back from Sydney in a cameo appearance with midfielder Connor Eyers (hamstring) and defender Brad Binns (away) both unavailable.
Play from 12pm. First-grade starts at 4:30pm.
In other fixtures Wests meet Maitland (4:30pm) in a battle for third spot with the Rosellas missing Hayden Dillon, Lachlan Carey, Brendan Lollback and coach Ryan Johnston while the Rams are down Rob Duguid. Last-placed University are up against Gosford (1:30pm). Both matches are scheduled for Newcastle on Sunday. The Entrance has the bye.
Meanwhile, in the Newcastle District Women’s Hockey Association premier league, fifth-placed Gosford host equal leaders Regals (2:15pm), Erina are at home to defending champions Tigers (3:30pm), Souths want to bounce back against more-fancied Avoca (4:15pm) and Oxfords meet University (12:30pm). All games are on Saturday.
HCPHL LADDER: Gosford 10, Norths 10, Wests 9, Maitland 8, Souths 7, The Entrance 4, University 0.
NDWHA LADDER: Oxfords 19, Avoca 19, Regals 19, Tigers 18, Gosford 15, Souths 13, University 9, Erina 8.