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Australian Hockey League commences this Friday
24 Feb 2005 08:29
 

The Australian Hockey League (AHL), Australia’s premier domestic hockey competition, begins this weekend with the first round of matches for both men and women in Perth, Hobart, Melbourne and Darwin.

Round 1 - Men
25/26 Feb: WA Thundersticks v Adelaide Hotshots, Perth, 8pm/7pm
25/26 Feb: MIA Tassie Tigers v QLD Blades, Hobart, 8pm/7pm
26/27 Feb: VIS Vikings v NSW Waratahs, Melbourne, 7pm/4pm
26/27 Feb: Territory Stingers v Canberra Lakers, Darwin, 8pm/8pm

Round 2 - Women
25/26 Feb: WA Diamonds v Adelaide Suns, Perth, 6pm/5pm
25/26 Feb: WPC Van Demons v QLD Scorchers, Hobart, 6pm/5pm
26/27 Feb: VIS Vipers v NSW Arrows, Melbourne, 5pm/2pm
26/27 Feb: Territory Pearls v Canberra Strikers, Darwin, 6pm/6pm

Recognised as one of the strongest and most competitive national leagues in the world, the AHL provides an important platform for aspiring Australian representatives, with the National Squads for 2005 being announced at the completion of the competition.

Defending Women’s Champions, the SmokeFree WA Diamonds, will open the 2005 AHL competition at the Perth Hockey Stadium on Friday 25 February at 6pm, the same venue which was the scene of their 2-1 upset win over the Canberra Labor Club Strikers in 2004.

The Diamonds will face strong competition to retain their crown, with perennial favourites, the Queensland Scorchers, NSW Arrows and the Strikers all likely to mount a serious contest. A further challenge comes from the history book, with no team – apart from the Arrow’s remarkable run of five straight titles between 1998 and 2002 – able to win back-to-back national league crowns. The Diamonds will meet the Adelaide Suns in their first match.

In other round one matches, the WPC Van Demons will meet the Scorchers, who boast no fewer than five of the 2004 Hockeyroos and numerous Development Squad and Australian U21 players.

The Strikers will travel to Darwin for a clash with the Territory Pearls, who will be looking to prove themselves after achieving their best ever result in the AHL last year, and the VIS Vipers will host the Arrows, as they seek a return to their title winning performances of previous years.

Meanwhile, the Men’s competition has the potential for making the history books as the Queensland Blades begin their quest for a record third successive national league title in Hobart against the MIA Tassie Tigers. No men’s team has won three straight AHL titles, but the Blades, with eight Olympic gold medal winning Kookaburras in their line-up, are the hot favourites to change the records.

In Perth, the runners-up from 2004, the Smokefree WA Thundersticks will meet the Adelaide Hotshots. The Hotshots were one of the most improved teams in 2004, finishing fifth after handing eventual winners, the Blades, their only loss in 2004.

A young and talented Azuma Vikings team, boyed by their impressive third place finish last year, will commence their campaign at home against the newly named NSW Waratahs (previously the Panthers), while the Vodafone Territory Stingers and the Canberra Labor Club Lakers meet in Darwin, with both teams likely to need maximum points to make a realistic challenge for a rare semi final berth.

The 2005 AHL will see the Men’s and Women’s competitions run concurrently, with four rounds of double header games played at home and away, followed by a finals week played at a single venue.

Brisbane will host the Men’s finals week from March 28 to April 3, while Canberra is the location for the Women’s competition between April 4 and April 10. Each finals week will comprise the completion of round matches before the classification and finals phase at the week’s end.

 




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