Perth Thundersticks coach David Guest has backed his side to be a premiership contender as the Hockey One League returns after a two-year absence.
The Thundersticks won just one of their six games when the Australian Hockey League was rebranded back in 2019, with Perth finishing sixth in the seven-team competition.
Perth have not won a men’s title since 2011, their last of nine with their first coming in 1992.
Guest said the Thundersticks could win the title this year, but the biggest unknown was how the other teams were shaping after two years of no competition.
“We’ve got a good blend of quality juniors coming through, some Australian players who are performing on the international stage and some good, solid club stalwarts who are going to play pivotal roles,” Guest said.
“If we get our game plan right and play cohesively I can’t see why we can’t be contending at the pointy end of the tournament.”
Perth will get a taste of elite hockey when they host Northern Territory Stingers in a pre-season match at the Bateau Turf Lakelands on 28 July, a crucial game in their preparations.
Guest said it had been a long time coming to play together as a team after two years of no Hockey One competition because of COVID-19.
“We had a practice game against the WA under-21s last week and even then you could tell there was some real excitement about getting together and playing hockey,” he said.
“The campaign will only go for four to five months and we’re at the start really. We’ve just picked the extended squad and using the practice matches to whittle it down to the 20 we’ll use in Hockey One.
“We had a group that played together in that game under a new structure and they did well. They took it on board straight away and ran with it, which is really pleasing.”
Guest said they would use the game against the Stingers to refine their new game plan.
“It’s about getting to know the game plan a bit more and which athletes can play different positions,” he said.
“We’re not too concerned about the result, just more concentrating on the strategy and how we’re playing within this.
“At the moment we have 35 athletes and that will whittle down to 20 by the time we pick the final team for the upcoming season.”
Guest said they were looking to the WA under-21 squad to fill some roles in their Thundersticks team and join Brodee Foster and Cam Geddes, who were already in the squad.