Jason just can’t wait for new season

Jason Parry will gauge his Tigers NIHL side after the first few weeks of the season – but he expects them to continue learning throughout the eight-month long campaign.

The county men face a tough year in the Moralee Conference, following their remarkable promotion from Laidler standard in March.

The opening fortnight of league action sees them travel to champions Blackburn on September 6th, before the visit of Whitley just six days later.

Before that, they take on Welsh side Deeside Dragons in a pre-season series of challenge games, on August 29th and September 5th.

Parry, who will work alongside Tom Watkins as Assistant Coach, is looking forward to pitting his wits against teams from the higher level.

He said: “Every game will be tough next season, and we’ll take it game by game. Of course, playing the champions away first will be a big test.

“Then we’ve got Whitley, who have made some good changes with David Longstaff and Andre Payette coming in. After those games, we’ll be able to gauge where we are.

“But it’s important to remember that the level we start at, won’t be the level we finish at. The guys will be learning all through the season and by the end, they’ll have developed a lot.

“Our average age is around 21, so the lads have still got a few years until they can decide whether to play up a level in the EPL. Some of the guys are only 17, so they’ve got even longer.”

That development pathway is a key part of the club’s plans for next season, with a number of players on two-way contracts with the EPL squad.

Parry added: “We have got some very good guys on two-way contracts this year, with the likes of Macaulay Heywood, James Smith, Denis Bell, Adam Taylor, Callum Bowley and Brad Betteridge.

“There is also a large group of younger lads, who had a taste of playing and training with the EPL squad last season. They will be pushing for one of those two-way deals as well.

“The guys are hungry and keen to learn, so we’ll continue to do that. It’s like any learning environment at that age, such as GCSE, A-Levels or a degree, when you’re looking to the future.”

There have, of course, been a number of changes to The Tigers NIHL line-up this summer, with a string of new signings bulking out Parry’s ranks.

Alongside the existing players, they will form part of a larger Tigers squad, on standby for a call-up to the senior EPL side.

“When guys are given the chance to play for Tom’s senior team, that will be a good thing for the whole squad,” he said.

“It means other players will have the chance to step into their shoes with the NIHL side. The fact that we’ve got a large squad means we’ll play three-line hockey, even with a couple of lads away.”

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