SWINDON Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell knows maintaining high levels of intensity will be key for his side this season ahead of their National League opener against London Raiders on Saturday night.

Nell criticised his team for having a ‘bad five minutes’ in their final pre-season challenge match against Telford Tigers last Sunday – a game in which Cats lost 6-2 – but said it was potentially understandable as attention had already turned to competitive hockey throughout the camp.

Looking for a hot start against familiar opponents, Swindon do not meet one of the five new teams in their league until the fourth weekend of the season when they welcome Hull Pirates to the Link Centre.

But for the time being, the Cats chief wants to see his NIHL One South champions blow the Raiders away when they begin competitive hockey on Saturday.

He said: “Everyone is just excited to start now – in the first week of pre-season, you’re excited to play hockey again and in the second week, you’re just waiting to get going with the real stuff.

“That’s where the experienced players need to make sure they get through the second week with no problems, so they know they will be ready for the real hockey to start.”

While last year’s buzzword was ‘consistency’ for Nell, and for others in the camp such as captain Sam Bullas, it still is, the Cats chief believes if his side can be unmatched in terms of intensity, they might come close or potentially even match their achievements from last season.

But Nell is fully aware the league title will be far harder to reel in this time around due to the increased competitiveness of the competition.

He said: “You don’t really mind who you play first up because this season is going to be so tough every week.

“There won’t be any gimmes like there has been in the past.

“We know that if we don’t come to play, we don’t work hard and match other teams’ intensity, then we’re not going to win.

“That’s what happened during pre-season – the two games that we didn’t match the other teams’ intensity, we were beaten.

“When we did match the intensity over 60 minutes, we got two wins, so that will be key for us this year.

“The crowd can help us with that, but it’s the players’ jobs to get themselves up for it whether there is one person watching or 10,000 people watching.

“If we work hard and we’re up for it every game then we will have success and I’m very confident the players will be ready to go this weekend.”