Sydney Sirens players at a recent AWIHL pre season try-out. (Photo: Sydney Sirens Facebook; Design: Will Cuckson)

In 2022, the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League (AWIHL) returns for the first time in two years.

The defending champions, Sydney Sirens, will begin their long-awaited title defence when the season kicks off in November.

A two-year layoff due to COVID hasn’t stopped the influx of women looking to play AWIHL.

Holding try-outs, the Sirens are seeing good numbers at practice.

“Having that many players trying out for the team is great,” Sirens head coach Jayden Ryan told The Inner Sanctum.

“But also, difficult when it comes to assessing who would be a good fit for the team and has the skill to play at the top level of women’s hockey in Australia.”

Along with the high player numbers, the Sirens are seeing new talented players attend.

Many have been playing winter ice hockey in IHNSW (Ice Hockey New South Wales) Division 2, and are already aware of the systems the Sirens want to implement.

“A lot of the girls have been playing women’s, and Sirens are in Division 2 men’s IHNSW winter competition,” Ryan said.

“So, fitness is good, and a lot know the systems already so only a small handful have to learn.”

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Players might not make the final cut this season, but will find themselves in a good spot for future Sirens teams.

Equally important will be the development squad Ryan says they are hoping to establish.

“There are a lot of young ladies coming through that can push for a spot on the team this year,” Ryan continued.

“Will be vital to get them practicing even if they don’t make the team this year for future years as some players retire.

“Plan is to have a development squad and team practice together over the summer.”

Replacing retired players who have been key components in past AWIHL seasons will be a challenge.

As a result of Amelia Matheson retiring, it leaves an experience and leadership gap in the Sirens roster.

At 36, she was one of the most senior players in the squad, and one of the most experienced women’s ice hockey players in Australia.

Starting with the Sirens in 2008-09, she was a five time World Championship player, representing Australia on the biggest stage.

“I think hardest part of replacing someone like Mel [Matheson] is the leadership she brings and her presence in the change room to the young players,” Ryan said.

“They [the players] would look to someone like that to learn from and be mentored by.”

Heading into the 2022/23 AWIHL season, the talk around the Sirens defending their title will begin to ramp up.

It’s something that will come into focus once opening puck drop for the season approaches.

“There hasn’t been any talk of that yet but will be a goal I will set with the team,” Ryan continued.

“But with new faces, we’ll focus on one game at a time, developing good habits and learning the systems then look to make play offs.” 

Getting back out on the ice for another AWIHL season is exciting for the Sirens.

Not seeing fans after a two year break, the club is looking forward to seeing the stands full again.

“We are looking forward to seeing them at our first home game at Canterbury ice rink in November,” Ryan said.

“Stay tuned for team and player announcements.”

The AWIHL season kicks off on November 5, culminating in finals mid-March 2023.

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