WOKING Hockey Club Ladies’ 1s relegation has, this week, finally been confirmed by the South Club Women’s Hockey League, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
Despite finishing at the foot of the Division One table – one point behind Staines Ladies 1s – it was not certain whether or not a restructuring of the leagues would throw Woking a lifeline and preserve their status for next season.
The confusion arose after the South Club Women’s Hockey League (SCWHL) had reportedly tabled four options based on boundaries and a re-allocation of teams per division – moving the current quota from 10 to 12.
And with no team being relegated into SCWHL Division One from the Investec Conference East this season (based on geographic location), Mark Robinson’s side had hoped to receive a reprieve.
However, their hopes were dashed last Sunday after it emerged that the League had opted to promote more clubs from Division Two into the top division rather than spare Woking of relegation.
The News and Mail understands the new restructuring allows for three clubs to be promoted from each of Division 3A and Division 3B into a new-look second division to help balance the tables
Robinson has mixed views on the League’s decision to move a club who finished outside of the promotion places one of the third divisions (A or B) into slightly weaker second division, but is aware of the potential opportunity it presents for Woking.
He said: “When a club gets relegated, you have to take the decision of whether you are going to go all out to challenge for promotion at the first attempt, or use the first season to rebuild.
“Next season, we will be in a new-look Division Two, which will feature six teams who would have previously played in the division below. You could, therefore, argue that the league won’t be as strong next season as it was this season.
“From my perspective, though, it provides an opportunity to introduce and nurture more of the junior players at the club and give them the opportunity to find their feet in Division Two rather than throw them right in at the deep end (Division One).” he added.
With a four-month lead-time before Woking commence pre-season, Robinson is already planning ahead. He is hoping to schedule six friendly fixtures prior to the start of the new hockey season in September to help condition his players.
“This season was always going to be difficult, as there was very little time to prepare the players, plus there were a number of changes to the playing personnel just a few weeks before our first match,” explained Robinson.
“While I know that two players unfortunately won’t be with us next season due to university commitments, I’m confident that the rest of the squad will remain together, which gives us an excellent platform to build from.
“Apart from a couple of the more experienced players, we have a very young crop of players; some of whom now have a season under the belt playing at the higher level, which will stand them in good stead,” he added.