THE Naidrodro club of Ba is making its return to the annual Marist Eastgate Hockey Open after six years.
Their return has caused a major buzz among the organisers as they are one of the dark horses of the Connect-sponsored tournament that will start today.
Also making a return to the tournament are clubs from Lautoka.
The sugar city-based teams were not involved in the 18-year old tournament for the past four years.
Club senior executive Paul Fraser said the western teams would provide tough competition but can be beaten.
“The western teams are making their return after a while now and they will be threats to the Suva teams,” Fraser said.
“Naidrodro won the State of Origin tournament which was revived like after a decade and the tournament featured strong teams from Suva and Lami so they will be tough opponents,” he said.
He said the revival program in the west had seen a renewed resurgence in clubs.
“But the only thing that will be disadvantage for them in the two-day tournament is the playing surface.
“Suva teams will have an advantage because we play regularly on the artificial turf while the western teams are dominant on grass courts and might find it hard on the artificial turf.”
The return of western teams has increased the number of teams taking part in the tournament.
Fraser said Stinger and host club Marist would be the biggest threats to the defending champions, Ventures.
“The defending champions are in good form, but the other teams including the western teams could spring a surprise.
An under-14 tournament will also be played and the club is hoping it would encourage younger players to take up the sport.
“As there is no formalised age/development programs run at club, district or national level, the Marist Hockey Club wants to continue to encourage younger players to the sport and to ensure that they have long running hockey careers,” Fraser said.