After a season that never really got going last year, captain Phil Cowell will lead Maidenhead Hockey Club men's 1st team into the new England Hockey League South Central Premier Division campaign on Saturday.
Maids have been promoted to the third tier of England hockey and will take on established sides such as Banbury and Milton Keynes this season.
They begin with familiar foes in the form of Staines at Altwood School on Saturday (11.15am pushback) and Cowell is confident they can set themselves up for the season with a positive result.
Last season's disrupted and abandoned season started well for Maids, with the club picking up several wins, but their form dropped off, and when it was eventually cancelled at the start of the new year, Cowell was left feeling like it had never really happened.
“It was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of results and training, with players isolating and things like that,” he said.
“It didn't really feel like there was a good vibe and it didn't feel like a real season so it's good to be back.
“We’ve had a proper pre-season and fingers crossed it’s going to go ahead as normal, and nothing will interrupt it.
Preparations have been ok, but it's been quite difficult with the squad. We've had six players leave us for various reasons, some have moved away, and others have stopped playing. From speaking with other clubs, it's quite common for players to have got their weekends back and decided now not to come back to hockey.
“But we have managed to pick up a few players as well, so we've got a strong squad of 14 heading into the new season and, touch wood, apart from my niggly back, no one else has any injuries.”
Having never played at this level before, Cowell is unsure as to how Maids will go this season, but victory over Staines on Saturday morning would give them a real boost. Head coach Rohit Kapoor will lead the team into the new season, without the support of Great Britain player David Ames, who is playing hockey in the Netherlands this year.
“Staines are one of the sides we know quite well,” he said.
“They're usually a tidy team and have some strong players but it's also a winnable game for us if we turn up on the day.
“We have the confidence to believe we can beat teams like Staines. We’ve merged with other leagues and there’s a few teams in there now like Banbury and Milton Keynes who have been playing at a good level for a number of seasons.
“Until we turn up and play against those sides, or see the results come in, it’s difficult to know what will happen.
“It will take three or four weeks for the league table to settle down a bit.”
Marlow Hockey Club’s 14 men’s and women’s teams will be pushing back on the new league season from Saturday, but ahead of their curtain raisers teams from Marlow and Wycombe faced off in the annual Croxson Cup match.
The clubs have been competing to lift the Croxson Cup since 1974 and, with one match to play on the day, the cumulative scores were level at 22-22.
However, Marlow’s 2nd team tipped the balance in their favour, beating Wycombe’s 1st team 5-2 to retain the cup (27-24).
The league programme will involve Marlow’s seven men’s and seven women’s teams playing a range of old and new sides at varying levels; however, the first teams take on familiar foes. The women’s side get their season started at home to Maidenhead, from 11.45am, and the men will host Newbury and Thatcham at Pound Lane from 1.30pm.