NEWCASTLE hockey enthusiasts will get their first chance to assess their club chances this year when the fourth edition of the Hunter Power Cup kickstarts the season this weekend.
The Power Cup has established itself as a great lead in to the local men's Premier League competition.
It will be no different this year with six of the eight teams readying themselves for the season opener on Sunday, March 17.
Only Maitland and last year's grand finalist, The Entrance, are missing from the draw.
Spectators can be assured that the competition in the men's division will be keenly contested.
Top local hopes Norths and Souths have an outstanding opportunity to have a Newcastle team engraved on the cup as three times winner Ryde will not be present to defend their title.
Other locals teams hoping to make history are Wests, University, Gosford and Tigers but all will face strong opposition from the visiting clubs.
Services Workies from Tamworth have returned for their second tournament while Sydney clubs Manly, University of NSW and the powerful Norwest Strikers are all first-time competitors.
In the women's division last season's two grand finalists, Regals and Souths, failed to nominate leaving Central, University, Oxfords and the Maitland Association to fly the local flag in an eight-team competition.
University of Canberra is competing for the first time while Sydney will be represented by Glebe, Gordon North Sydney and Ryde, who make their first appearance in the women's competition and are extremely keen to uphold the reputation created by their men's team.
Cup convener Scott Rainbow said the tournament would take on a different format this year with both men's and women's divisions split into two sections after the first day's play, the top four competing for the Hunter Power Cup and the rest for the President's Plate.
"This will ensure that all teams get a greater opportunity to compete for a trophy against teams of similar ability resulting in better and more enjoyable hockey for those competing," Rainbow said.