When coronavirus first appeared, Mudgee Junior Hockey were uncertain where numbers would sit for this year.
But, they have been pleasantly surprised.
Friday, July 24 was the first round of the juniors which drew in similar numbers for primary school (20) and minis (8), with high school (8) contenders up from 2019.
Co-coordinator for Mudgee Junior Hockey, Jo Ioane says "we have been greatly encouraged by the response from the children."
"We anticipated fewer registrations this year due to the shortened season. This [numbers] is a great result for what has been an uncertain time," she said.
As soon as registrations opened we started receiving messages from parents of returning players saying how excited they were to hear that hockey was back on.Mudgee Junior Hockey co-coordinator, Jo Ioane
"Players arrived early on Friday and were enthusiastic all around. The new players enjoyed their first taste of hockey and were all planning to come back this week."
Ioane says the committee have been doing everything they can to ensure safety of all players with hockey being considered a sport for all ages.
"This year has been different due to coronavirus. When it first started back in March we weren't sure we would even have a season. As restrictions eased, Hockey NSW started planning for a return to the sport," she said.
"Hockey NSW have been very proactive in helping with COVID-19 plans, coach and administrator webinars, liaising with the government regarding restrictions and health guidelines.
"Hockey is a real family sport with players ranging from four to 80 years old, so the emphasis at all levels has been on keeping players and their families safe and healthy.
"The local hockey committee have been working hard to ensure the return to hockey is safe for everyone involved."
Despite hockey carnivals, gala days or school holiday clinics being cancelled this year for COVID-19 reasons, it is likely Centre of Development sessions will take place across the Western Region with local players encouraged to participate.
"Hopefully next year these events will be held again, giving local juniors opportunities to join representative teams with Lithgow and play school hockey locally," Jo said.
In a bid to motivate, weekly encouragement awards are handed out to those who display sportsmanship, effort or improvement.
Last week's winners of the Boost Juices and Cake & Dessert Co awards were Aleira (minis), Eliza (primary) and Isis (high school).
"These awards give coaches an opportunity to reward good behaviour and effort, and motivate the children to do their best," Jo said.
Junior hockey is held at Victoria Park each Friday afternoon with minis (ages 4 to 8) playing from 4.30pm to 5pm, primary school from 4.30pm to 5.30pm, and high school from 6pm to 7pm.
The final week of the season will be held on September 24.