Men's Premier League Hockey introduces new nines format for the pre-season

WE'RE BACK: Saturday's first round of the new men's Premier League Hockey Nines marked the return of Parkes to the competition. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
WE'RE BACK: Saturday's first round of the new men's Premier League Hockey Nines marked the return of Parkes to the competition. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

IT will be fast, the goals will flow and junior talents will get the chance to flourish - welcome to the men's Premier League Hockey Ben Hagney Electrical Nines.

The new competition will act as a pre-season warm up for men's Premier League Hockey outfits before the start of the 2019 title battle on May 25.

To be run over five-rounds across three Saturdays, it will give teams the chance to suss out their opponents, get match fitness and for the victors at the completion, earn some nice prize money.

Bathurst hosted the first round of the nines competition on Saturday, with Orange then Parkes the venues for the two following Saturdays.

It was an idea proposed by Bathurst St Pat's talent Shane Conroy.

"We're pretty keen to go actually, it gives us some extra hockey to play. That's why I threw the idea up at the start of year at the meeting, rather than just having three rounds for the season," Conroy said before Saturday's first round.

"This nine-a-side idea is to try and build the experience of the juniors for the season ahead. It is something different, something exciting for the competition.

"We've got a heap of juniors this year, we're building on what we've had the last two years, so it will be good for them."

Aside from the fewer players on the field, there are other rule alterations as well to add spice to the contests.

Games will be broken into 10-minute quarters and while finding the mark off a penalty corner set play will still count as one goal, a successful shot from the field is worth two.

"I think there will be a lot of goals, with nine-a-side there is lots of space and there will be a lot of keen juniors," Conroy said.

Saturday also marked the return of Parkes to men's Premier League Hockey after they were unable to form a side for 2018. They faced a stern test first up against defending premier Lithgow Panthers.

Conroy is excited to see Parkes return and thinks they will be a side to watch given their junior talents, while he also expressed his regret that Bathurst rivals Souths will not take part in this year's competition.

Souths has withdrawn after making the men's Premier League Hockey grand final for three consecutive seasons.

"It is disappointing to see them [Souths] go, it won't be the same, local derbies are what you look forward to," Conroy said.

"Parkes, I think they'll be the dangers and could be the ones to beat, they've got a heap of talented juniors, they've got about eight guys who made state last year in the under 15s, 16s, so they'll be champing at the bit to get out there."