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Numbers game . . . Central Otago Hockey executive officer Sandra Stuart estimates more than 900 players will join clubs for this year's hockey season. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

ALEXIA.JOHNSTON

@alliedpress.co.nz

This season’s hockey draw is full to capacity, leaving next to no room for extra game time at Central Otago’s turf fields.

The sport, which has been growing over recent years, has once again proved popular to the point hockey turf across the district would be busy over the coming months, Central Otago Hockey executive officer Sandra Stuart said.

She estimated there would be at least 900 players signed up once the season was in full swing, which was on par with last year.

“Primary numbers are at capacity with the facilities we have at the moment.”

Those facilities, which are at Omakau, Cromwell and Wanaka, will welcome the start of the season in the first week of term 2.

Matches will include 11-a-side and six-a-side games.

All 11-a-side matches will be played in Cromwell because it is home to the district’s only full-sized field, while the other grades will be shared between all the towns.

Junior grade competitions will feature 13 teams in the years 7-8 grade, about 25 in years 5-6 and 23 in years 3-4.

“It’s a real juggle,” Mrs Stuart said, in regards to determining the draw and distributing the matches between each field.

When possible, games would be played throughout the week, mostly mid-week so children could play other sports at the weekend.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Mrs Stuart said.

“We listened to what the community says and [have] tried to adapt to have as many people playing as we can with the resources we have available.”

Omakau School principal Tracy Richmond said she had noticed growth within the sport over recent years, which she attributes to the Central Otago Hockey schools programme.

Schools signed up to the programme, which meant each child got four coaching sessions a year, based on their grade or skill level.

Each school also received hockey sticks and balls to keep.

About 17 schools across Central Otago have signed up to the programme.

It had been a great way to promote the sport, Mrs Richmond said.

“Hockey in this area has increased massively in the last few years.”

She credits the people who help make that happen.

“There’s some really committed parents in this area that coach and support those teams.”