TWO second-half penalty corner strikes from Launceston's Kieron Arthur was not enough to save Tasmania from a 4-2 loss to Victoria on the opening day of the national under-21 men's hockey championship.
Coached by the Tasmanian Institute of Sport's Andrew McDonald, the team fought back from a 3-0 half-time deficit in Sydney.
Casey Hammond (two), Lachlan Stock and Will Gilmour scored the Victorian goals past Jayden Pearson.
McDonald said he expected James Thomas and Josh Beltz to play key roles along with a number of debutants as Tasmania prepares to also meet Queensland and the ACT.
``Our immediate focus will be to strengthen understanding of key themes and set plays given we have three Queensland imports,'' he said.
Tasmania will be reduced to 16 players for the tournament's second week with Nick Hill departing due to study but a youthful Hayden Beltz and Bryce Blacklow will add freshness to the group.
Under-21 women's coach Simon Arthur is also expecting a tough challenge when their tournament begins in Perth today.
``I am hoping to use this tournament to develop the group so that in two or three years, provided it remains together, the team will be experienced and extremely competitive - hopefully finishing in the top four,'' he said.
The team's preparation has been interrupted with Lily Kirkland and Maddy Westland forced to withdraw late due to injury and illness.
Arthur identified TIS athlete Maddy Hinton, midfielder Tayla Britton and WA import Kate Jolly as key players.
``The challenge will be for the team to gel as quickly as possible, given the number of athletes that have not been able to train with the group,'' he said.
``The tournament will be a bit more difficult for us than the other teams.
``Although there is a bye due to Northern Territory withdrawing, we do not get our extra rest day until the last round of pool games.
``We play six games in eight days against all the other teams, to determine positions for finals. We need to gain maximum points to ensure we don't miss out on playing on the final day of competition.''