ECHUCA Moama Hockey Club’s A grade men kicked off the 2017 season with a win on Sunday.
The River Rats stormed home for a 4-1 win over Mooroopna at Shepparton in the newly named Regional Hockey League (RHL), starting the year where they left off as the 2016 Goulburn Valley Hockey Association premiers.
But it was a new-look side taking the field with six players from the championship side out this year.
Justin Tamblin, Geoff Carr, Liam Curson and Regan More left the side while Johno Nunn was sidelined with a knee injury.
A grade player Adam Thompson said it was up to B grade players, such as young Tayden Monigatti and Tom Morphet, to step up and fill the positions.
‘‘It was a good start given the amount of changes to our A grade this year,’’ Thompson said.
‘‘Hopefully we have a few more experienced players back this weekend for what should be a more challenging game against Loddon Mallee.
‘‘Loddon won the Bendigo competition last season so we’re expecting them to be strong again.’’
The experienced Jayden Gulson, who captained the 2016 side, got the River Rats off to a strong start with a goal from the short corner.
Gulson is set to play the first part of the season with Echuca Moama before heading down to play in Melbourne.
Lachlan and Scott Thompson and Ash Phipps scored the remaining goals.
The women came away with a one-all draw against the previous season’s champions in the hot conditions, but it was a win in coach Coral Gulson’s eyes.
‘‘Considering the team had five girls who hadn’t played together before that game they did incredibly well,’’ Gulson said.
‘‘The first half was rushed and the girls looked panicked in their shots, but in the second half they settled and found some confidence to turn things around.’’
Mooroopna scored first at the 20 minute mark before the River Rats Monique Schwedes levelled the scores in the second half, which was reduced to two 15 minute quarters given the heat.
Gulson said everyone contributed well throughout the game and goal keeper Erin Thompson made some great saves in her return to the team.
Sally Deed, Schwedes, Kate McMaster and Julz Roulston all played their first games in the Echuca Moama strip, while Emma Miller returned to the club after five years off playing.
Courtney Thompson stepped up from juniors to play her first A grade game.
Gulson said the side was still missing key players with Shae Oliver and Renee Thompson and Tegan Stuchbery out, which made for a promising season ahead.
The women take on Eaglehawk in Bendigo on Sunday from 1pm with the men to play Loddon Mallee at 2.30pm.
The club is looking forward to starting trainings this Thursday with the Hook in 2 Hockey program starting at 4.30pm, juniors at 5.30pm and seniors from 6pm.