Tainui will take things one step at a time when the new hockey season starts this weekend.
Rather than make bold predictions of glory in the South Canterbury first division, Tainui player-coach Jared Ovens wants to see his team quietly improve throughout the season.
“We need to find some consistency,” he said.
“We’ve still got a strong core of players. The key for us will be getting everyone to training so we can put things in place and come up with some strategies.
“I think the competition will be quite even. Anyone can beat anyone on their day.”
Tainui had a strong season in 2016 but dropped back last year, winning just three of 12 games.
A feature this season will be the opportunity to play on the sparkling new blue turf at Centennial Park.
“We haven’t really played on it so we’re yet to know how it’s gong to go,” Ovens said.
“But it should be a lot nicer to play on. It’s a lot smoother, and it might play a wee bit slower.”
Tainui has suffered some significant player losses.
Sam Brocas, the starting goalkeeper for the past four or five seasons, has gone to Christchurch, and both Fraser Hollamby and Brent Martyn are taking a year off hockey.
Greg Webster is busy with work commitments, Henry Bower has gone to university, and North Otago hockey godfather Shaun Cunningham is unlikely to play after making a few appearances last year.
An intriguing newcomer is Dutch midfielder Tobias Peters, an intern at the Waitaki District Council who has played to a decent level at home in the Netherlands.
Logan Jopson will step up from the second division team to replace Brocas in goal, while three Waitaki Boys’ High School pupils – Caleb Scarlet, Cluver Swart and Blain Hamilton – join the squad.
“It will be a big step up for those three, and it will take them a few weeks, but we will look after them and nurse them through,” Ovens said.
Ovens will look to the Dalziel brothers, Josh and Nick, Jim Keown and Thomas Wouters to lead the way on the turf.
Tainui opens the season with a home game against Cambridge tomorrow. The club’s second division side has an away game against the Timaru Boys’ Second XI on Sunday.