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News for 26 February 2015

All the news for Thursday 26 February 2015

Mohd Hafiz chuffed in making Malaysian hockey team to Australia

By Aftar Singh

Maybank's Muhammad Hafiz Zainol (right) in action against TNB during their Malaysia Hockey League match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil last year. - Filepic

KUALA LUMPUR: Forward Mohd Hafiz Zainol is one lucky youngster.

The 22-year-old was called up for national training just three weeks ago. And on Wednesday, he was among the 20 players named for the two-week playing tour of Perth.

The national team will leave for Perth on March 3 and they will play eight matches there — three against the Australian national team, three against the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS) and two against the Western Australian Institute of Sports (WAIS).

National coach Tai Beng Hai, who named the players for the tour after the morning training session on Wednesday, said they included Hafiz because “we want to develop young players”.

“We need to expose our young players and the playing tour to Australia will be a good experience for players like Hafiz, Meor (Mohd Azuan Hasan) and Mohd Haziq (Samsul),” said Beng Hai.

Meor and Haziq are both 20 and can feature in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan in November.

Hafiz, who featured in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi in 2013, was surprised to be named for the tour.

“I never expected to be part of this tour as I was only called up for training three weeks ago,” said Hafiz, who is from Pahang.

“The playing tour to Australia is the biggest breakthrough for me in the national senior team.

“I won’t waste the opportunity and will go all out to score goals to win a regular place in the team.”

There were 35 players in the training squad and a few experienced players, like midfielder Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor and forward Mohd Shahril Saabah, were not included for the tour due to injuries.

Beng Hai said the Australian tour “is part of our preparation for the World League Semi-Finals in Belgium (from June 20 to July 5)”.

The World League is the qualifying tournament for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Malaysia have not featured in the Olympics since Sydney in 2000.

After the two-week tour of Australia, Malaysia will feature in the six-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh from April 5-12. The other teams are defending champions Australia, New Zealand, India, South Korea and Canada.

Goalkeepers: Mohd Hafizuddin Othman, Roslan Jamaluddin.
Defenders: Azlan Misron, Baljit Singh Charun, Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin, Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim, Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin, Azreen Rizal Nasir, Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib.
Midfielders: Mohd Shahrun Nabil Abdullah, Faiz Helmi Jali, Meor Mohd Azuan Hasan, Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil, Mohd Ramadan Rosli, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin.
Forwards: Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin, Mohd Firhan Ashaari, Mohd Haziq Samsul, Mohd Rashid Baharom, Mohd Hafiz Zainol.

The Star of Malaysia

Junior Euro Hockey League set for April 3

The EHL, in association with ABN AMRO, will host a special Junior EHL at HC Bloemendaal on Friday, 3 April with four of the best youth clubs from the continent set to battle it out for the title.

Players will get the feeling to be what it is like to be an EHL hero like Florent van Aubel, Mink van der Weerden, Moritz Fuerste or Ramon Alegre.

Last season, the format was tested with four Dutch Under-14 boys teams and the aim for this year is to have four teams participating, one from each of the top four nations in this year’s EHL, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Spain.

The tournament, organised by the EHF, is played as far as possible according to the concepts and the rules of the regular EHL.

National associations are invited to enter one Under-14 team to the competition, either by invitation or by playoffs to determine who will be their representative.

To this end, the C1 boys of Bloemendaal, Oranje Zwart and Kampong will fight it out on Sunday, March 1 at SCHC to get a ticket for the ABN AMRO Junior Euro Hockey League.

Euro Hockey League media release

Birmingham Uni face leaders Surbiton

Univ of Birmingham's Abi Porter tracks Leicester's Kerry Whitehead, Sept 13 2014, credit Andy Smith

AFTER narrowly losing to league leaders Surbiton last weekend, the University of Birmingham continue their push for a play-off spot when they host rivals Holcombe in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division on Saturday.

Both teams are still in with a realistic chance of finishing in the top four and securing a place at the Finals Weekend, which this year is being held at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

Three of the four play-off places have already been claimed, but several other teams are gunning for the last spot.

“It’s going to be tough for us, but it’s nice to be chasing for the play-offs instead of looking down the table and worrying about relegation,” said University of Birmingham coach Phil Gooderham.

“All the teams going for the play-offs are good sides, there are no easy games at this level. But I’m really pleased with how the girls have worked this year, they’ve stepped up massively.”

After holding Holcombe to a draw last weekend, Leicester are at home again as they chase the final play-off spot. They play ninth-placed Bowdon Hightown who are desperate to avoid relegation.

Reading are currently fifth and play host to third-placed Canterbury on Sunday as they look to keep their hopes of reaching the Finals Weekend alive.

Beeston’s bid to climb off the bottom of the table continues as they entertain leaders Surbiton at Highfields on Saturday, while Buckingham are also desperate for points to avoid the drop as they play second-placed Clifton at Stowe School.

In the Investec Conference West, leaders Slough head to second-placed Swansea City on Saturday in a crucial game for both team’s promotion hopes. Slough also travel to Stourport on Sunday to replay their match that was postponed a fortnight ago.

Sevenoaks head to St Albans as they continue to hunt down leaders East Grinstead in the Investec Conference East. Eight points behind, Sevenoaks ideally need their rivals to drop points at Ipswich on Saturday.

Former leaders Brooklands Poynton lost out at Ben Rhydding in the Investec Conference North last weekend, and will want to get back to winning ways when they go to the University of Durham on Saturday. Meanwhile, leaders Wakefield are at home against Sutton Coldfield.

Investec Women’s Hockey League (Saturday, February 28 2015)

Investec Premier Division
Beeston v Surbiton 12:00
Buckingham v Clifton 12:00
Univ of Birmingham v Holcombe 12:30
Leicester v Bowdon Hightown 14:00

Investec Conference West
Gloucester City v Cheltenham 12:00
Olton & West Warwicks v Isca 12:00
Oxford Hawks v Stourport 12:00
Swansea City v Slough 12:00
Trojans v Bristol Firebrands 12:00

Investec Conference North
Whitley Bay and Tynemouth v Loughborough Students 12:30
Ben Rhydding v Kendal 13:30
Wakefield v Sutton Coldfield 13:30
Univ of Durham v Brooklands Poynton 14:00
Cannock v Liverpool Sefton 14:00

Investec Conference East
St Albans v Sevenoaks 13:00
Maidenhead v Chelmsford 13:30
Harleston Magpies v Bedford 14:00
Ipswich v East Grinstead 14:00
Wimbledon v Horsham 14:00

Investec Women’s Hockey League (Sunday, March 1 2015)

Investec Premier Division
Reading v Canterbury 14:30

Investec Conference West
Stourport v Slough 10:30

England Hockey Board Media release

Stockport claim U18 Girls' National Schools title

Stockport take the 2015 U18 Girls' Championships

National Schools Championships for Girls

1st Stockport
2nd Cranleigh
3rd Repton
4th Queen’s, Taunton

The final day of the Girls’ U18 Schools Championships saw another team with their name on the trophy for the first time as Stockport Grammar School defeated Cranleigh 1-0 in the final. The only goal of the game came from Lauren Hunt in the second minute after Stockport won a penalty corner. Cranleigh looked for the equaliser, but couldn’t find a way past Maya Gordon in Stockport’s goal and the Manchester side hung on to take the 2015 title.

In the battle for third place Repton overcame Queen’s 4-2 thanks to goals from Erica Sanders [2], Chloe Renshaw-Smith and Alicia Turner – Queen’s battled back in the second half with two goals in the dying minutes, but the game as already won.

Pool E
The pool finished with only a point between the top two as Repton turned their championships around with two victories on the second day of competition. The defending champions recorded a 1-0 win against rivals Millfield in their first game of the day and followed that up with a comprehensive 5-1 victory over Framlingham to set up a 3rd v 4th play-off against Queen’s who finished second in Pool F.

Stockport meanwhile claimed top spot with two wins and a draw in the group stages. After winning both of their matches yesterday the Manchester side drew 1-1 with Millfield in their last pool game which was enough to secure first place in the pool and set up a final against Cranleigh.

Pool E final standings

Position, School, Points

1, Stockport, 7
2, Repton, 6
3, Millfield, 4
4, Framlingham, 0

Pool F
Cranleigh topped Pool F with nine points after claiming victories in all three of their group stage matches. Charlotte Calnan, who already plays her hockey in the Premier Division with league leaders Surbiton, netted four of her team’s goals on route to booking their place in the final.

After recording a win, a draw and a loss Queen’s finished second in the pool, just edging out GSAL on goal difference, to set up a tie against Repton in their final game of the championships.

Pool F final standings

Position, School, Points

1, Cranleigh, 9
2, Queen’s, 4
3, Grammar School at Leeds [GSAL], 4
4, Trent, 0

England Hockey Board Media release

Repton crowned U16 Champions for first time

Repton win 2015 U16 Girls' Schools Championships

National Schools Championships for Girls

1st Repton
2nd St. George’s
3rd Grammar School at Leeds [GSAL]
4th Clifton

The final day of the Girls’ U16 Schools Championships saw Repton take the U16 title for the first time with a comfortable 4-1 victory over St. George’s. Hannah Davey and Esme Burge scored a brace apiece and with three of the goals coming inside 18 minutes the damage was already done before the half-time hooter sounded. In the third/fourth play-off GSAL clinched third place with a dramatic 6-5 victory on penalty strokes after the game finished 1-1 at full-time.

Pool C
Repton topped the table with three wins from three in Pool C. The Midlands side continued their strong form from yesterday with a 3-1 victory over Ardingly in the first pool game of the day to secure their place at the top of the table and set-up a final against Pool D toppers St George’s. Clifton finished second in the pool after recording a win, a draw and one loss over the two days of competition. Ardingly came close to clinching second place as they finished on the same points as Clifton, but were just nudged out on goal difference.

Pool C final standings

Position, School, Points

1, Repton, 9
2, Clifton, 4
3, Ardingly, 4
4, Joyce Frankland, 0

Pool D
The top two in Pool D came down to the final group game as St George’s and GSAL took on each other to decide first and second place. As expected it was a close encounter, but St. George’s took the spoils 1-0 as Yasmin Chalal found the target in the seventh minute to give her side the vital three points.

Pool D final standings

Position, School, Points

1, St George’s, 7
2, Grammar School at Leeds [GSAL], 6
3, Canford, 4
4, Oundle, 0

England Hockey Board Media release

No risks with drag-flicks

“Wild reverse hits during play are more dangerous than a penalty corner attempt. Experienced forwards have control, so when they attempt to whack the ball in, it is a controlled shot. The danger to players defending at the goalmouth comes from hits by players at the lower levels,” says Floris Jan Bovelander in a chat with Nandakumar Marar.

The Dutch hero in his prime…Floris Bovelander takes a penalty corner in a match against Argentina during the 1990 World Cup. Bovelander had set off a penalty corner revolution of sorts with his thundering shots to the boards.THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Floris Jan Bovelander believes moments such as the penalty corners are necessary to infuse life into hockey. The penalty corner specialists are counted as assets, while each save made by the goalkeeper is a cause for celebration in the goalmouth and the dugout.

Penalty corner conversions can also hurt those in the firing line, as the ball rockets towards the cage. With so many big-made players as drag-flick specialists, does hockey face the risk of a serious impact injury, even as cricket is still coming to terms with the Phillip Hughes casualty? Is hockey going down that risky path by glorifying its drag-flickers instead of putting in place safety measures to protect the brave, sometimes reckless rushers and gutsy defenders on the goal-line?

Bovelander did not think so. He was of the view that reverse-hits can be more fatal.

“Wild reverse hits during play are more dangerous than a penalty corner attempt. Experienced forwards have control, so when they attempt to whack the ball in, it is a controlled shot. The danger to players defending at the goalmouth comes from hits by players at the lower levels; the ball travels anywhere,” said the Dutch penalty corner maestro and member of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics champion team.

“This mismatch in levels creates problems, not drag-flickers in hockey. When experienced teams play, movements are controlled, but when youngsters attempt reverse hits, you don’t know what can happen,” said Bovelander. “A raw batsman not used to (playing) pace will be in awkward postures while facing quality fast bowling.”

The Hockey India League pits domestic talent against international stars from India and other nations signed up by various franchises. “In the anxiety to prove himself, a young Indian player may try something which can prove risky for himself, and sometimes for other players,” said Bovelander during a Hockey India League game involving Dabang Mumbai at the Mahindra Stadium.

This mismatch needs to be addressed in order to curb injuries instead of looking at rule changes, the Dutchman asserted.

“Have you heard of hockey deaths from penalty corners? How many bouncers were bowled before one batsman became a casualty? Death on a cricket pitch is unfortunate, don’t get me wrong. (Phil) Hughes was unlucky. At the same time, not every bouncer hurts batsmen. So is the case with penalty corners, so why talk of curbing them?” he said.

The players rushing out to narrow down the angle, as the drag-flicker gets into action leads to complications. “Rushing during penalty corners creates problems for those behind. Their view is blocked by the rushers, reducing the reaction time to deal with deflections. With face masks and teeth protection mandatory in hockey, facing a drag-flick is not life-threatening; goalkeepers are also padded and protected,” said Bovelander.

Isn’t there a possibility of the rusher being injured?

“Ball contact with any player rushing will be below knee-level; the deflected ball can travel anywhere. I feel instead of tampering with the penalty corner rules, cut out the rushing,” said the 49-year-old Dutchman, who was in Mumbai recently with Teun de Nooijer, another Dutch great, for a hockey clinic conducted by Dabang Mumbai for local coaches and kids.

“I didn’t like to wear those dentures, but in The Netherlands now, school kids playing hockey wear gum shields,” Bovelander said.

The conversation with the Dutch ace gradually turned into how the game benefited from the penalty-corner. Bovelander, in his heyday, had set off a penalty corner revolution of sorts with his thundering shots to the boards. Now the role has become a specialist job.

“Defenders become heroes. Usually, forwards get credit for scoring match-winners, but due to penalty corners in hockey, defenders do step up and get their names on the score-sheet. Penalty corners present a good situation for the spectators. Music is on, and there is a break in play. The public knows what to expect. There is noise all around in anticipation of something about to happen,” said Bovelander.

Talking about Dabang Mumbai’s hockey clinic, Bovelander said that a start had been made. “It is just the beginning. There are no instant results in hockey. A process has started, a structure will come up next, and from there talent will emerge,” he explained.

The burly Olympian, who is involved with coaching in The Netherlands, added: “India is doing okay at the top; it is the layer just below the top that needs attention.”

He was of the view that the performances in the Hockey India League can create openings for more Indians in the European clubs, since international stars and foreign coaches working with different franchises deal with local talent first-hand.

The Dutch club, HC Bloemendaal, had signed up India captain Sardar Singh. This is considered a big breakthrough for the player since Bloemendaal is one of the most successful clubs in The Netherlands. The club has also won two Euro Hockey League titles and two EuroHockey Club Championship Cups.

“I am sure foreign teams and managements will be watching the Hockey India League. We learnt a lot from (Sardar) Singh by just watching him play. I am sure he must also have learnt a lot by playing for Bloemendaal and against other clubs on how to deal with better-structured defences. We have players from various nations, India, Pakistan and South Korea from Asia in the Dutch league. It is a learning experience for all,” said Bovelander, who was one of the leading players of HC Bloemendaal.


A good year for Ellen

While Ellen Hoog may allow herself just a few seconds to reflect upon a hugely successful year, her focus is now on the future… and it is looking very orange

(Photo: FIH)

For the Netherlands midfielder Ellen Hoog, 2014 was a good year. Over the course of 12 months, the 28-year-old was voted Best Player of the Tournament at the Hockey World Cup, became Amsterdam’s Sports Woman of the Year and then took the title, FIH Player of the Year. Currently, her trophy cabinet includes two Olympic Gold medals, two World Cup wins and a Hockey World League title, and she is now eyeing up a third Olympic gold in Rio 2016.

FIH caught up with Ellen after her club side Amsterdam returned from a visit to Iceland.

Qu: How did you feel when you were announced as the Player of the Year?

EH: I felt really happy and honoured. 2014 was already a very successful year, so it was like a cherry on the cake to win this prize. All the success of 2014 has been a team effort so I’m very grateful to my teammates.

Qu: In a tremendous year for your team, what was the standout moment?

EH: Just before the end of the match (the World Cup final), when we asked for a video umpire referral. I think the match had only 20 seconds left and the crowd went crazy. At that moment we realised we were about to become world champions. We were celebrating but at the same time we knew the match wasn’t finished yet. That was a really special and impressive moment.

Qu: How did you feel when you were crowned World Champions?

EH: It felt really special. The ‘Road to The Hague’ as we called it, with all the preparations towards the tournament was already really special. To become World Champions with this perfect team, in your own country, in a full orange-coloured stadium was really a dream come true.

Qu: What do you think the successful hosting of the World Cup in The Hague has done for hockey in the Netherlands and also around the World?

EH: The World Cup in The Hague was a great event and I think it has reached many people all over the world. I saw a lot of children in the stands and around the stadium, so hopefully they got even more enthusiastic about hockey. It would be great if we can see some of those kids play in a World Cup tournament in a few years themselves.

Qu: You beat a lot of other top players to the award, what do you think is your personal biggest strength as a hockey player?

EH: I think my creativity and my offensive skills are my biggest strength. I’m not big, but I feel very fit and strong. It gives me the dynamic ability to give 100 per cent for the team every game. I like taking the lead by working hard. But, I have to improve my defensive skills and I want to be even more dangerous in the attacking moments. Also I still have to learn to take the lead more on a tactical level during the match.

Qu: You already have a high profile in the Netherlands, but do you feel that women's sport generally is getting a higher profile because of the televising of events and the growth of social media?

EH: I think social media and television is definitely giving us a higher profile. We all have many followers on social media, allowing us to get in touch with our fans. We are really open and share many photos and stories, which makes the connection with our followers very interactive. It’s fun to be in touch with your followers and fans like that.

Qu: What are your personal sporting ambitions for the next few years?

EH: First we have to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio, so the coming months I’m totally focused on that first step. Eventually, my biggest dream is to win a third golden medal at the Olympic Games in 2016, but there is still a long way to go. After Rio, we’ll see again.

Qu: As an international athlete, do you sometimes feel as if you live in a bubble, and how do you relax to get away from the pressures of being in that high intensity environment?

EH: I am extremely grateful to be able to play hockey full time, so mainly I just enjoy the games, the training sessions, the camps and the tournaments. It’s a lot of fun to work with a great group of people throughout the season, but it’s very important to pick your moments of relaxation. When I’m not busy playing hockey, I like to share my time with friends and family. I can really enjoy a nice lunch and coffee somewhere in my home city Amsterdam for instance. When I have more time off than an afternoon or day, I love going on a weekend trip. Last summer I went to California to do a road trip with my boyfriend for a few weeks. It really reloads your battery if you can focus on something else and relax if you have some time off.

FIH site

Ulster hockey chief: I had to resign over all-Ireland proposals

By Graham Hamilton

Stuart Macdonnell's resignation highlights the apparent differences that are starting to envelope Irish and Ulster hockey

Ulster Hockey - currently engaged in a consultation process with the Irish Hockey Association, the other provinces and its own clubs over the introduction of a full all-Ireland league set-up next season - has been rocked by news that the vice-chairman of their Management Board has quit his post as a result of those very talks.

Stuart Macdonnell's unexpected resignation highlights the apparent division that is beginning to envelope Irish and Ulster hockey, and administrators are hoping that this week's club forums - the first was held at Banbridge on Monday and the second is scheduled for Mossley tomorrow evening - will go some way towards galvanising matters and pointing the best way forward.

Macdonnell (pictured) is unquestionably for the proposed full all-Ireland league set-up and the timing of his resignation, ahead of the club forums, underlines that he is not happy at the direction being taken regarding Ulster Hockey's discussions in recent months about the IHA and the IHL.

"I have done this in sadness, conscious of the good work undertaken by all my colleagues on the Board under the committed leadership of Alison Wilson, together with the officers, ably led by executive manager Angela Platt," he says.

"But I believe the direction of travel in recent months is not destined for a place in the best interest of hockey, its players or clubs.

"For me, the basic task facing all hockey administrative functions is to enable all players to fulfil their potential at the highest level of which they are capable, and thereby achieve their ambitions, in what is a comparatively short first-team career compared with other 'professions'.

"In my view, the top players in Ulster are not currently sufficiently challenged in each fixture and the IHL model aims to address the lack of competitiveness, especially in the men's league where large score differences are almost normal. I see no prospect of an improvement in that position.

"Legitimate issues about the IHL regarding affordability, logistics of travel, availability of school players etc. have been raised within the hockey family, though I believe with some creative thought all of these can be solved.

"More recently, I feel, rather than addressing these valid issues, we have spent too much time looking for loopholes in governance in order to thwart the current IHL model.

"I also fear there may become a connection between the IHL discussions and the notion in some circles of 'going it alone'.

"Given the huge costs of funding international participation at all levels for both genders, for which the IHA obtains funding support from two governments, and the published financial position of the NI Executive from whom Ulster Hockey receives the majority of its funds, I can see no prospect of delivering an affordable independent model, so I can see no sense in wasting valuable energy in pursuing this option.

"Likewise, the International Hockey Federation may see no good reason to change the licence which gives the IHA governance over international hockey in Ireland. This would then encourage elite players to migrate from the Ulster league to IHL teams - the very thing we are trying to avoid.

"And it would also leave Ulster/NI with a much reduced quality of player pool to select from, and so the attraction of seeing the Commonwealth Games as an achievable goal looks fanciful."

At the moment this season's IHL is nearing completion, with Banbridge men the best bet for an Ulster club to reach the semi-finals, while Pegasus could be the sole representatives from the Ulster women.

But it's next season that the new all-Ireland league kicks in and we won't know what the Ulster plans are until after the club forums and consultation process are completed.

Not everyone at club or indeed Management Board level agree with Macdonnell's reasons for resignation - he has since been replaced by Barry Feeney - but it highlights that the all-Ireland proposals have caused division rather than pulling everybody together.

Belfast Telegraph

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