SWIM Bournemouth will begin a new chapter in their National Arena League story next month after switching their allegiance from the Western League to the South.

They open their account in the South League’s Division Two West at High Wycombe on October 13 and will start as favourites against smaller clubs and bigger clubs’ B and C teams.

Head coach Matt Heathcock told the Daily Echo that Swim Bournemouth wanted a “fresh challenge”.

“We have a new, young team but are lacking older swimmers and needed to give ourselves an opportunity to rebuild,” he said.

“Swimming in the West Premier Division would have been demoralising at times and the only way we could avoid that would have been to pull out for a year and start again in Division Two.

“In the South, we’ll be competing against teams we don’t really know so that’s a fresh challenge for the staff and swimmers.

“We’re aiming to get promotion this year and be challenging for the South Premiership in three years.”

They will also be able to host league galas at Littledown from next year.

Bournemouth Dolphins, one of Swim Bournemouth’s forerunner clubs, swam in the South League until they moved to the West in 1991.

Swim Bournemouth’s departure means Poole are now the only Dorset team in the West’s Premier Division – and they face a tough first round tie at Bristol.

Third place is probably the best they can hope for against a line up that includes 2017 national champions Millfield and promoted Mount Kelly, whose low seeding is misleading, as they have been working their way through the lower divisions after leaving the league a few years ago.

Poole expect to have internationals Jacob Peters and Jazz McCrea available for round one.

But even Commonwealth Games finalist Peters faces a tough battle against Mount Kelly’s European Championship bronze medallist from Italy, Federico Burdisso.

Poole coach Barry Alldrick said: “We finished fifth in the Premier Division in the last two years and it would be nice to break into the top four but we’re not there yet.

“With Mount Kelly now involved, finishing sixth will be a challenge.”

A top six place would put Poole into the virtual gala that helps decide the 20 qualifiers for the national finals in March.

Seagulls and Poole B meet at Millfield on October 13 with both hoping to make the Division One final in December.

Seagulls coach Martin Littlefair said: “We managed to stay up last year despite a bad first round.

“Hopefully we can take it on now and make the top gala.”

First round draw: West Premier Division (at Horfield, Bristol): Poole, Bristol Henleaze, Millfield, Truro, Mount Kelly, Weston-super-Mare.

West Division One (at Millfield): Seagulls, Poole B, City of Newport, Academy ST Burnham, Devonport Royal, Southwold, Clevedon.

South Division Two West (at High Wycombe): Swim Bournemouth, Guildford City C, Alton & District, Eastleigh, Haslemere, Wycombe District C, Chichester Cormorants, City of Oxford B.