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News for 23 March 2018

All the news for Friday 23 March 2018

Golden Games Moments - Knowles: I’ve Never Heard Anything So Loud

Ben Somerford

Retiring Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles finds it hard to split all three of his Commonwealth Games gold medal experiences but there is one with a different tale.

Knowles, who turned 34 earlier this month, triumphed in Melbourne (2006), Delhi (2010) and Glasgow (2014) and is aiming for his fourth gold medal at the upcoming 2018 Gold Coast Games, which will be his last as a player, having announced his retirement in February.

The veteran defender loved winning gold in Melbourne in his first major international tournament on home soil as a 22-year-old.

He also relished saluting in Glasgow, only a month after winning the 2014 World Cup, but 2010’s triumph in India was different.

Australia had made their way to the gold medal match with a perfect record, claiming five wins from five matches, including a 5-2 win over the hosts in the pool stage.

Despite finishing second in the pool, India also reached the decider after a shootout win over England, where the home side’s support was overwhelming.

In this context, India were on a wave of emotion and momentum heading into the decider at Delhi’s Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

“It was unbelievable, I’ve never heard anything so loud,” Knowles recalled.

“There were 15-16,000 Indians in the crowd in Delhi.”

The opening exchanges were tough for Knowles and his Australian team-mates, in a match where push-back was 11.30am in the Indian summer.

“They were just absolutely on top and we couldn’t get the ball at all,” Knowles recalled.

“Every time we’d get it the fans would scream so loud and we were so scared that we gave it back to them.”

The opening 15 minutes past with the match scoreless, until Jason Wilson broke the deadlock in the 19th minute. Chris Ciriello added a second two minutes later and suddenly the Kookaburras were in control.

“We weathered the storm and got a goal against the run of the play,” Knowles said.

“By the time half-time came, I think it was 4-0 and most of those 15,000 had left.”

The Kookaburras went on to triumph 8-0 in a barnstorming success, with Wilson and Luke Doerner grabbing doubles, while Simon Orchard, Jamie Dwyer and Glenn Turner also hit the scoresheet.

But, despite the scoreline, Knowles remembers the match as one of the toughest of his life.

“It was an 11.30am start in Delhi summer and I think it was about 46-47 degrees on field,” he said.

“I just remember thinking to myself ‘this is going to be one of the hardest games that I ever play in my life’.

“After about 20 minutes I remember thinking ‘yep I’m correct’. It got a lot easier towards the end of the game but it made it very memorable.”

Despite those remarkable circumstances, Knowles won’t put that ahead of his two other Commonwealth Games gold medals.

“Winning in 2010 was one that I’ll absolutely never forget,” he said.

“To win that final in the way we did after the way we started the game, that was a moment I was really proud of with that team.

“In 2006, it was absolutely amazing to be playing in front of that massive crowd in Melbourne.

“To win a gold medal in front of our family and friends is just an amazing moment for us.

“I’ve absolutely loved my Commonwealth Games experiences and Glasgow topped off an unbelievable period of dominance for our Kookaburras team in 2014, winning the World Cup only a month before that.

“To back up so shortly after that World Cup triumph, to play the way we did in Glasgow was pretty exceptional.

“For me personally, to be the closing ceremony flag bearer it topped off my 2014, it’s very hard to pick single moments in tournaments very often but those three Commonwealth Games experiences mean the world to me and they’re all very special."

Will Knowles add another memory in 2018?

Hockey Australia media release

Peris: Home Games Will Bring Out Our Best

Ben Somerford

Hockeyroos forward Brooke Peris is confident the side can produce their best performances on home turf at the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Peris, who has been declared fit after a quad injury sustained in January, was named in the 18-member Hockeyroos team for the Commonwealth Games.

Australia (fifth) are ranked below England (second) and New Zealand (fourth) in the nations competing at the Gold Coast Games.

The Hockeyroos beat New Zealand on home turf, in Sydney, in October last year to win the Oceania Cup and Peris said playing in familiar surroundings would bring out the best in the side, rather than add pressure.

“We have lots of meetings and talk about different scenarios especially the experiences from the older players and how the young girls would feel if they felt that pressure,” she said.

“We love playing on home turf. We take it to the heart.

“I know our best performances have been in Australia.

“I have no doubt that the girls will put on a good performance.”

Peris was part of the team which won gold at the 2014 Glasgow Games but felt playing in Australia at the Commonwealth Games was extra special.

“We don’t have the opportunity for families to travel around the world as much as we do,” she said.

“It brings an extra special touch when you have family or friends in the stands.”

Peris lives with her boyfriend Jeremy Hayward who will also compete for gold with the Kookaburras.

“It’s stressful at times when we’re both fighting for the same goal,” Peris said.

“He’s worked really hard. It’s very exciting. It’s his first Comm Games. It’s very exciting for both of us.”

She added: “At times we’re very competitive. In pre-season we’ll time our scores together and see who’s the better one.

"We pushed each other in that direction. It’s something where we’re both very proud of each other.”

The Hockeyroos, who are in Pool B alongside New Zealand (fourth), Scotland (18th), Canada (21st) and Ghana (30th), fly out for Gold Coast on Wednesday 28 March.

Hockey Australia media release

Meet Nqobilie "Bili" Ntuli

Original image - Marcel Sigg

The South African Hockey sides head to the Gold Coast to take on the Commonwealth Games. The SA Hockey Men feature an exciting and youthful squad including one of the most refreshing attacking talents in some years, Nqobile “Bili” Ntuli.

Bili is now 22 and has already earned himself 21 caps and picked up six goals for the Amastokke. This includes the FIH World League and now the Kearsney College old boy will be part of the team looking to ruffle a few feathers in Australia!

Get to know our striker ahead of the Commonwealth Games!

Although it is already 21 caps ago, please tell us about the moment you got to make your debut for SA?

It was something I’d been waiting for and dreaming about for a long time but didn’t expect it so soon either. We played against Ireland in Cape Town a day after my birthday and secured a 3-3 result, so it was pretty memorable.

You featured in the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2016 in India, including scoring a goal in the victory against Austria. What was the Junior World Cup experience like?

The Hockey Junior World Cap was an incredible experience! Firstly, playing with a talented group in my generation who were hungry to make history and then, playing at a major FIH tournament. To play against India in a packed stadium in Lucknow, where hockey is a religion, indescribable.

Photo - Marcel Sigg

You already have a pretty sensational hockey CV, what has been your best hockey experience so far?

It’s really hard to think one as I’ve been so blessed with a few amazing opportunities. The Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, where South Africa finished fourth, are up there but I think winning the Africa cup in Egypt against the hosts in the final was the most special.

How are you feeling about the preparation of the Commonwealth Games?

My individual prep was interrupted by some terrible news (Nqobile’s younger sister passed away unexpectedly) but since then I’ve knuckled down and joined the squad for camps has been a massive boost for me, the excitement around the team with the new coach has been a big motivation - we’re an ambitious young group with a new coach and fresh ideas, we’ll be tested.

As a striker who do you look up to in your hockey?

I’ve always looked up to Lloyd Norris-Jones and tried to emulate his aggression in and around the D but also Tom Boon has a lot of attributes that I try to learn from

Who has played the biggest role in your career so far?

Probably my brother (Sihle Ntuli), he’s motivated me to try and be the best and just set an example for my peers since I was young. His attitude towards succeeding at all costs is something I’ve adopted

There are a lot of youngsters in our CWG squad, are you excited about the future of SA Hockey?

It’s extremely exciting but at the same time daunting. We are motivated and hungry along with our new coach and a bit of experience in the setup. Credit to the selectors for making big decisions and backing us

You can continue to support the rise of Bili by following him on social media @bili_ntuli27 on Instagram and Twitter.

SA Hockey Association media release

Petroleum will be keen to reaffirm its top status

Uthra Ganesan

LUCKNOW: The National championships of any sport is considered the pinnacle. Not when the sport is hockey, which has developed its own system of identifying and promoting talent.

With the eighth edition of the tournament entering its business end here from Thursday, only a handful of players would have something at stake.

With High Performance Director David John watching the proceedings throughout, the quarterfinals of the National will have some usual suspects, some surprising contenders and a few national team hopefuls battling it out with seasoned professionals boasting of enough international experience.

“The competition is important for the younger players, those who can realistically be part of the national side in 2020. There are already 18 players selected for CWG who will most likely be part of the pruned 24-member squad for the rest of the year.

“We are looking at having a developmental side of 24 more and some of those excluded may move there. That is the group we are looking to fill with younger players from this competition,” a Hockey India official explained.

Five of the eight teams from the previous version will be in action even as Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), promoted from ‘B’ Division and easily the favourite and the most star-studded, will be keen to reaffirm its top status on the domestic circuit.

Led by Tushar Khandker and boasting of names like V.R. Raghunath, Birendra Lakra, Vickram Kanth, Harjeet Singh and Vikas Dahiya, the PSPB side clearly out-muscles the rest on reputation. It will take on Chandigarh, though, which cared little for reputations to cause a few scares last year.

Defending champion Railways plays Punjab & Sind Bank in another quarterfinal in a repeat of last year’s final that it won in shootouts.

With a hat-trick of titles, Railways has been the team to beat in recent years but it has seen a massive loss of personnel since then. All the names that helped it dominate have either moved elsewhere or are part of the national team — Amit Rohidas, Affan Yousuf, Yuvraj Walmiki, Nilakanta Sharma among others.

It has still managed to remain the only unbeaten side in the competition so far.

The Hindu

National hockey championships: PSPB enters semifinals

The heavyweight posts an underwhelming win to edge out Chandigarh

Uthra Ganesan

Stuttering and slipping: PSPB (white) players missed chances by the dozen and were unable to find the target either through penalty corners or in open play.  Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Petroleum Sports Promotion Board dominated in its 3-0 win against Chandigarh in the quarterfinals of the eighth National hockey championships here on Thursday, but it was less than satisfying for a heavyweight squad that, on paper, is unquestionably the strongest in the competition.

With almost the entire line-up boasting of international experience — seven of them part of the current national core group — PSPB was expected to cruise home. Instead, it stuttered and slipped, missing chances by the dozen and unable to find the target either through penalty corners or in open play.

Despite the match largely being confined to the Chandigarh half, the scoreline does not reflect that.

V.R. Raghunath and Gurjinder Singh missed a total of six penalty corners between them, one of them coming off the upright, trying to experiment with variations. Affan Yousuf, Simranjit Singh, Talwinder Singh, and Tushar Khandker were all found wanting in their position play and deflections near the goal as the ball kept rolling away harmlessly, even though they did manage to earn PCs.

It took a diving Harjeet Singh to deflect home in the 13th minute before Gurjinder scored twice in the third quarter. At the other end, Chandigarh goalkeeper Harjit Singh stood tall, fending off every shot that came his way including five PCs. But the one who impressed most was the wiry Amandeep, with a registered age of 15 and only a class X student, running circles around a PSPB defence.

The Chandigarh striker dodged, tricked and weaved through defenders repeatedly with disdain but was only let down by lack of support.

Air India managed to reach the last four with a 3-2 struggle against Odisha, surviving mostly on experience and luck against a younger and fitter team, all three goals coming off PCs courtesy Mohd. Faraz.

In the morning, defending champion Railways managed to get past Punjab & Sind Bank yet again, in a repeat of last year’s final, winning 2-1 while Punjab edged past Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) in a shootout after the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time.

The results (quarterfinals):

Railways 2 (Sheshe Gowda, Karanpal Singh) bt PSB 1 (Geet Kumar). Punjab 1 (Varinder Singh) bt CAG 1 (Mithilesh Kumar) in shootouts; Air India 3 (Mohd. Faraz 3) bt Odisha 2 (Nilam Sanjip Xess, Ashok Lakra); PSPB 3 (Gurjinder Singh 2, Harjeet Singh) bt Chandigarh 0.

The Hindu

Punjab to face Railways in semis

Punjab edged past Comptroller & Auditor General of India in shootout to set up a semifinal clash with Railways in the senior men’s hockey National Championship in Lucknow on Thursday.

Punjab beat CAG 5-4 in shootout after the match had ended in a 1-1 draw. Varinder Singh’s 28th-minute goal had been cancelled out CAG’s Mithlesh Kumar in the 35th minute.

Defending champions Railways survived a late fight-back from Punjab & Sind Bank before winning 2-1.

Sheshe Gowda (2nd minute) and Karanpal Singh (45th) gave Railways a two-goal lead. Geet Kumar got one back in the 57th minute, but time ran out for Punjab & Sind Bank.

In the other semifinal, to be played on Saturday, Air India will meet Petroleum Sports Promotion Board. Mohd. Faraz scored a hat-trick as Air India fought past Odisha 3-2, while Petroleum Sports Promotion Board had an easy outing against Chandigarh 3-0.

The Tribune

'Keepers inspire Loughborough and Durham to BUCS Big Wednesday wins

BUCS Big Wednesday 2018

Goalkeepers were the heroes of BUCS Big Wednesday as Ollie Payne inspired Durham University to victory in the Men’s Championship while Miriam Pritchard pulled off several impressive saves to secure the Women’s Championship for Loughborough.

Having suffered so much heartache in recent years – finishing runners-up in three of the last four seasons – Loughborough W1s finally clinched the cup with a 3-2 victory against hosts Nottingham.

In front of raucous home support, Nottingham had the better chances of the first half – forcing Pritchard into two great saves from corners – but it was their local rivals who led at the break courtesy of Lucy Millington’s penalty stroke.

That lead tripled in a matter of moments in the early stages of the second half as firstly Lizzie Neal and then Annabel Sams unfurled brilliant strikes to put Loughborough in the driving seat.

Nottingham hit back and with ten minutes as Eloise Stenner finally managed to beat Pritchard but it was not to be for her side, despite Charlotte Calnan smashing in a second goal with the final touch of the game.

The men’s final was an even tighter affair as Durham took the title after beating Nottingham Trent 3-1 on strokes after the game finished level at 1-1 in regulation time.

Three-time semi-finalists Durham began the game on top and found themselves ahead in the 19th minute as Torben Nowak gave former GB Olympian Ali McGregor no chance with a rocket strike.

Nowak then thought he had a second early in the second half, only for it to be ruled out, before Trent equalised with just two and a half minutes to go as Elliot Hibell fired a penalty corner into the roof of the net.

Step forward GB EDP squad member Payne - who had already produced several great saves in the game,  including a flying one-handed effort to keep out Trent captain Chris Procter – to clinch the win for his side, pulling off three great saves to ensure the trophy headed back to the north east.

That was the second hockey victory of the day for Durham as their Women’s 2nd XI overcame Birmingham W2s 2-1 to take home the Women’s Trophy, while the men’s equivalent also went to strokes with Edinburgh M1s emerging on top having equalised late in the game against Cardiff.

England Hockey Board Media release

Surbiton face Beeston in Men's Premier Division

Surbiton's Sam Spencer. Credit Tim Rede

Second-placed Surbiton head to leaders Beeston on Sunday as the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division reaches a thrilling finale.

Despite their current position though Surbiton are not guaranteed a top four finish, with the battle for play-offs still very much on, while a top-of-the-table finish also comes with a 2018-19 EuroHockey League spot.

“This is one of the closest ends to a season I can remember in all my years as a Premier Division manager,” said Surbiton 1st XI manager Matt Jones. “It could go any way for a good number of teams, and we’re not safe yet.

“With so many teams losing internationals to the Commonwealth Games who knows how these matches will go? And when you add in the pressure of it being the last weekend as well as the disruption with so many games having been postponed because of the weather, it makes for a dramatic end to the season.

“We can’t be sure which personnel will be playing for either side, but regardless of that both teams have an endemic attacking style of play so it could be a very interesting game.”

Hampstead & Westminster are just outside the play-off places in fifth, but with two games left to play they could sneak in if other results go in their favour. They play the bottom two teams - Sevenoaks on Saturday, then Canterbury on Sunday.

Wimbledon are currently fourth and also have two home games left, against Brooklands MU on Saturday and Reading on Sunday. They might still end up fifth but victory in both games could see them go top of the table, depending on other results. Meanwhile, Reading need to beat Wimbledon to secure a top four finish.

At the other end of the table Canterbury and Sevenoaks are battling to avoid the drop. Currently bottom, Canterbury are one point behind second-bottom Sevenoaks and go to Kent rivals Holcombe on Friday before a home finale against Hampstead & Westminster on Sunday.

And after entertaining Hampstead & Westminster on Saturday, Sevenoaks play their final match at East Grinstead on Sunday. Elsewhere in the top tier, Holcombe head to Brooklands MU on Sunday after their Friday night clash with Canterbury.

Second-placed Loughborough Students could take the title in the Men’s Conference North if they can win at Bowdon and Cannock this weekend. They are three points behind current leaders University of Nottingham, who go to Doncaster, but it is Loughborough who have the better goal difference. Bowdon retain an outside chance of the title too.

At the other end of the table, the relegation battle continues with just three points separating the bottom six teams. Among them, Sheffield Hallam and Deeside Ramblers do battle on Saturday, as do Leeds and Doncaster, while Sheffield Hallam play Leeds on Sunday.

However, with fixtures cancelled once again last weekend due to the snow, it is likely the final placings will not be decided until the 7 April when Cannock host Sheffield Hallam and Deeside Ramblers entertain Preston.

The University of Exeter head to Cheltenham on Sunday as they bid to secure the Men’s Conference West title, while second-placed Cardiff & Met have matches at Havant on Saturday and at home against Olton & West Warwicks on Sunday. If Exeter win Cardiff will need four points from their two games to set up a title decider on 7 April.

At the other end of the table, bottom side Clifton Robinsons need to win at Isca to have any chance of overhauling ninth-placed Cheltenham.

In the Men’s Conference East champions Oxted entertain Old Georgians who, along with Old Loughtonians – their opponents on Saturday – and Chichester are battling to avoid the relegation play-offs.


Friday, March 23 2018

Men’s Premier Division
Holcombe v Canterbury 20:00

Saturday, March 24 2018

Men’s Premier Division
Sevenoaks v Hampstead & Westminster 12:00
Wimbledon v Brooklands MU 14:00

Men’s Conference East
Old Georgians v Old Loughtonians 14:30
Southgate v Teddington 15:30
Cambridge v Richmond 16:15

Men’s Conference North
Bowdon v Loughborough Students 11:45
Sheffield Hallam v Deeside Ramblers 13:30
Leeds v Doncaster 15:30

Men’s Conference West
Olton & West Warwicks v Isca 12:00
Havant v Cardiff & Met 13:30
Univ of Birmingham v Cheltenham 17:30

Sunday, March 25 2018

Men’s Premier Division
Beeston v Surbiton 14:00
Brooklands MU v Holcombe 14:00
Canterbury v Hampstead & Westminster 14:00
East Grinstead v Sevenoaks 14:00
Wimbledon v Reading 14:00

Men’s Conference East
Brighton & Hove v Chichester 14:00
Cambridge City v Southgate 14:00
Old Loughtonians v West Herts 14:00
Oxted v Old Georgians 14:00
Teddington v Richmond 14:00

Men’s Conference North
Cannock v Loughborough Students 14:00
Doncaster v Univ of Nottingham 14:00
Preston v Bowdon 14:00
Sheffield Hallam v Leeds 14:00
Univ of Durham v Deeside Ramblers 14:00

Men’s Conference West
Cardiff & Met v Olton & West Warwicks 14:00
Cheltenham v Univ of Exeter 14:00
Fareham v Team Bath Buccaneers 14:00
Isca v Clifton Robinsons 14:00
Univ of Birmingham v Havant 14:00

England Hockey Board Media release

Australian Teams Named For Youth Olympics Qualifiers

Ben Somerford

Hockey Australia (HA) today announces the Australian men’s and women’s teams for the Youth Olympics Games Qualifying Tournament to be played in Papua New Guinea from April 25-29.

National selectors have named the teams based on performances at the Under-18 Australian Championships which concluded in Launceston on Wednesday.

The 2018 Youth Olympic Games will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October, with the hockey tournament being played in the Hockey 5’s format.

Australia, who will be coached by Ben Bishop (mens) and Tim White (womens), will play in the Oceania Region qualifiers in Port Moresby.

The Australians will come up against hosts Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Australia’s men will be vying for one of three qualifying spots in the Oceania region and Australia women will be in contention for one of two qualifying spots.

Australian Men’s Team
Lain Carr (NSW)
James Collins (WA)
Miles Davis (NSW)
Lewis Fossey (QLD)
Tom Harvie (WA)
Brad Marais (VIC)
Hugh Snowden (VIC)
Christian Starkie (WA)
Ben White (VIC)
Shadow Athletes
Michael Doan (QLD)
Jed Snowden (VIC)
Ky Willott (NSW)

Australian Women’s Team
Caitlin Cooper (WA)
Emma de Broughe (SA)
Naomi Duncan (NSW)
Neasa Flynn (WA)
Amy Lawton (VIC)
Morgan Mathison (QLD)
Courtney Schonell (NSW)
Jolie Sertorio (WA)
Maddison Smith (NSW)
Shadow Athletes
Ruby Harris (QLD)
Indianna Robertson (VIC)
Hattie Shand (SA)

Hockey Australia media release

UNDER 16- Pahang Girls Come lately

By Jugjet Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: Pahang girls had to bring out their best to beat Terengganu 2-1 in the medal round of the National Under-16 tournament at the Malaysian National hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil Thursday.

In the other group, a second minute strike by Nur Ainaa Rahim was enough for Kuala Lumpur to beat Johor 1-0.

Terengganu took the lead off Nur Nazurah Razali in the second minute, but Pahang fought back and equalised in the 51st minute off Zati Alyani Zubir and the winner was scored 20 seconds from end by Nur Shazwani Zakaria.

Receiving a pass from J. Thibatharshini, Nur Shazwani cooly slotted in the ball to give her team-mates hope of playing in the final.

Pahang play Malacca today, where a win will see them in their first Under-16 final.

Pahang coach Sabri Mohamad said it was a jittery start, and luckly his girls scored a last minute goal.

"We have never played in the medal rounds of the National Under-16 so I believe my girls were jittery today," said Sabri.

"But after the second half, there was better effort from them and we manged to pull a 'rabbit out of the hat' in the dying seconds.

"Now, we aim to beat Sabah to play in the final," said Sabri.

Last year, Pahang finished seventh while in it was a miserable 11th in 2015.

RESULTS: Boys -- Group X: Johor x Kuala Lumpur x; Group Y: Perak x Pahang x.

Girls -- Group X: Terengganu 1 Pahang 2; Group Y: Johor 0 Kuala Lumpur 1.

FRIDAY: Boys -- Group X: Kuala Lumpur v Penang (7.15pm, Pitch I); Group Y: Pahang v Malacca (7.15pm, Pitch II).

Girls: Group X: Pahang v Sabah (6pm, Pitch I); Group Y: Kuala Lumpur v Malacca (6pm, Pitch II).

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

UNDER 16: Avtar Singh's begging pays off

By Jugjet Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah Hockey Association (SHA) secretary Avtar Singh has to take out his begging bowl every time he wants to send teams to age-group and Junior Hockey League (JHL) tournaments in Peninsular Malaysia.

For him, the begging with sponsors and friends has paid off as after a short span, his players have started to impress.

Sabah boys and girls used to be punching bags for their rivals five years ago but after regularly competing in the National Under-14, Under-16 and the JHL, their boys finished fourth and the girls got a silver medal in the Under-16 last year.
This year, the Sabah boys held Pahang 1-1, Kelantan 1-1 and only lost to Kuala Lumpur 1-0 but crashed out of the medal rounds.

Ther girls qualified for the medal rounds by beating Sarawak 3-0, drawing 1-1 with Penang and losing 4-1 to Malacca.

"It's not easy as air fare, lodging, food, and allowances come up to RM80,000 for the two Under-16 teams while it’s a whopping RM200,000 for the two teams in the JHL.

"But Sabah HA know that our players can only improve if they play against stronger teams regularly and so it was decided that whatever the costs, we need to bear it.

"Our biggest supporters are MSN (Majlis Sukan Negeri) Sabah who gave RM43,000 to the Under-16 team alone this year.

"For the balance, I had to approach sponsors as well as friends 'with a begging bowl.'

"But seeing our boys and girls progress well in a short span has been a super reward, and I don't find begging a chore," said Avtar.

Sarawak are the other HA who have to bear high costs to field their players, and they, too, have shown marked improvement.

On Wednesday, Sarawak boys held Negri Sembilan to a 2-2 draw, showing a marked improvement. Last year Negri Sembilan ended sixth, while Sarawak were at the bottom 14th position.

The two state HAs should be emulated by those who feel that it is too cumbersome to look for sponsors to nurture home talent, who in the long run, will be an asset to the nation.

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Alex Road crowned PE Central hockey champions

Celebrating their victory in the PE Central tournament of the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge at Westering on Wednesday are the Alexander Road team of (back, from left) Gabriela Jordaan, Lauren Gathercole, (middle, from left) Kyle Schimper (coach), Jordan Tissink, Alexandra Schenk, Asithandile Nama, Gaby Rockman, Jada Botha, Cheyenne Walton, Cassidi Ownhouse (captain) SPAR EC advertising manager Rose Shadrach, SPAR EC sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton, (front, from left) Aaminah Ajam, Halle Schrieff, Kiara Meyer, Zoë Maree, Alison Adams, and Bulelwa Vinjiwe. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Alexander Road seized their opportunity midway through the match to be crowned champions in the PE Central edition of the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge at Westering in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

After defeating last year’s champions Woodridge in the semifinals, Alexander Road came up against 2016 winners Collegiate and ended up winning 1-0 in a tense battle.

Although the Collegiate girls dominated territorially, they could find no way through the determined Alex defence.

The match ended with a final onslaught by Collegiate, with two penalty corners in quick succession, but, as had been the case for the full 20 minutes, the Alexans stood firm.

The new champions showed how dangerous they can be in this shortened format by taking their chance in one of their forays into the Collegiate circle, with Alexandra Schenk pouncing to net the winner.

In the cross-pool play-offs, Alexander Road shaded Woodridge 1-0 in the eight-second penalty shootout, while Collegiate also went to penalties against Pearson, winning 2-1.

After ending third in the inaugural tournament in 2016 and second last year, coach Kyle Schimper said they were delighted to finally finish in first place, qualifying for the provincial finals in August.

“After our performances in the last two years, there was the hope that we could go all the way this time,” he said. “But in this sort of format you never know just how it is going to end.”

What made their victory even more special, he said, was the announcement by SPAR that Alexander Road would host next year’s PE Central tournament.

Schimper said the style of their play was suited to the format.

“We definitely try to push the attacking sort of game and the shorter format does perhaps help us a bit.

“It was a bit of a fortunate goal if I can put it that way, but that’s the nature of the game – the team who take their opportunity can win and if you don’t it can be a difficult way to lose.”

He felt the concept was a fantastic initiative for hockey across the country as it gave an opportunity for all schools to compete at another level.

“Our girls really enjoy this tournament and today was good for us because we are leaving on Friday for a tour of East London. So this game-time was invaluable.

“Also, the girls appreciate the effort that is put in to give them this opportunity and, without SPAR, this would not be happening.”

SPAR EC sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton paid tribute to the players and supporters, saying their involvement epitomised the company’s philosophy.

“It was great to see such competitiveness and skills from the players, but, more importantly, as a family-based retailer we want to thank all the moms, dads, siblings and friends for being part of this wonderful day,” he said.

“Our retail outlets are all individually franchised and every store has its own entrepreneurial spirit, with individuals working as a team.

“And that is what hockey is all about as well, so congratulations to you all.”

He added that camaraderie and fun were important pillars of the tournament concept.

“Sport is powered by commitment and joy and if you have that commitment you will get some joy.

“Hopefully you have made some friends today and some great memories. We love being part of this tournament, allowing us to give back a little bit to all those who support us.”


World hockey under scrutiny over FIH Pro League selection process

By Rod Gilmour

England and Australian women

World hockey chiefs have been asked to iron out concerns ahead of next year’s launch of the Hockey Pro League – which features Great Britain men and women, the Olympic champions – after reports emerged that the league’s management committee had called for an investigation surrounding the country selection process for the global top-tier event.

The allegations centre on India’s and Pakistan’s inclusion to the new annual tournament and comes to light following a blog post by Ashley Morrison, the well-known Australian hockey commentator and broadcaster, which was published at the weekend (see the next article below)

It reveals that a letter was sent and signed last month to the governance panel chair at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) by the chair of the Hockey Pro League and co-signed by members of the League’s management panel.

The missive, as reported in the blog, requests “an independent investigation relating to the signing of a contract on behalf of the FIH that we have been informed could jeopardise the implementation of the Hockey Pro League and potentially lead to bankruptcy.”

It is understood that members of the league management panel were kept in the dark over contract agreements allegedly undertaken between FIH officials and Star Sports, the Indian broadcaster.

As Morrison writes: “The issue outlined in the letter concerns the contract between the FIH and Star Sports in India, in which it is claimed ‘that the FIH will ensure that India will participate in the Hockey Pro League’ and that ‘the FIH will use its best endeavours to ensure the participation of Pakistan.’”

The FIH confirmed the authenticity of the letter to The Hockey Paper in a statement.

“As a matter of principle, FIH does not comment on internal correspondence and documents of confidential nature,” an FIH spokesperson said.

“However, we can confirm that the FIH Governance Panel has received the letter and is looking into the matter.”

Star Sports partnered with Hockey India to launch the Hockey India League in 2013

The annual global tournament Pro League, which is set to revolutionise the sport by bringing hockey to a wider audience, will launch in January when nine men’s and women’s international teams will play each other on a home-and-away basis until June.

The top four teams from the two tournaments will then compete in a Grand Final weekend and awarded Olympics inclusion for Tokyo 2020.

Prior to the announcement, nations were invited to bid for inclusion to the Pro League, with the FIH outlining “a competitive candidate evaluation process”.

However the Pro League management panel, in calling for transparency, is understood to have questioned “fairness and equality” in this application process after the matter reportedly came to light in a broadcast report sent to FIH Pro League panel members.

India men and women had originally been included as participatory Pro League teams before Hockey India pulled out of the global event last summer, with officials citing concerns over automatic qualification for the women’s team at Tokyo 2020, given the team’s lower ranking and only the top four teams earning an Olympic berth.

Pakistan men will play their home matches in Glasgow. Meanwhile, Spain and Belgium took India’s place in the men’s and women’s tournaments respectively.

Ireland men and women weren’t successful in their bid to join both leagues, while Malaysia men missed out. In the women’s event Belgium, Italy and Japan were unsuccessful.

The Hockey Paper contacted all the above nations for comment and were unable to comment. Japan officials, who had not seen the full claims, had no “specific objection” to the FIH bidding process.

Following India’s withdrawal, the FIH subsequently hinted in December that “the door is open” for an India return to the Pro League in the future.

“There is a process by which countries can join the Pro League. When the time is right, we will welcome Hockey India in the Pro League. There are some challenges of course,” Jason McCraken, the then FIH CEO, told reporters.

McCraken, who took up his role in February 2017, unexpectedly stepped down later in December and will officially leave his position in June.

The FIH interviewed replacement candidates at its Lausanne headquarters last week, with an announcement due shortly.

The Hockey Paper

Looking For Answers

Ashley Morrison

In today’s world if you ask too many questions you can find yourself in trouble, as many in authority are loathe to give answers.

Yet if you hold a position of trust and authority and you fail to ask questions you too can find yourself in trouble.

In fact in many countries at Board level the failure of a Board member to question, and have minuted their objections can result in them being held accountable if there is a problem. Silence, even in minutes, is deemed to be agreement with a decision.

It is pleasing to hear that in the world of Hockey those in authority have taken responsibility to ask questions which may cause some pain, but which will ultimately secure the game’s future.

As reported back on this site in December the International Hockey Federation has witnessed a mass exodus of senior staff in recent times, including the CEO; although an official press release has still not been sent out, and he along with other departed staff remain listed on the organisation’s website.(Who’s Left)

Head hunters have been tasked with finding a new CEO and an announcement is expected this month, with many hoping that the sport employs from outside the game a person with no affiliations to any sections of the game. Yet that is for the future, what is important is the present.

A letter has emerged that has been sent to Chair of the FIH Governance Panel, by the Chair of the Hockey Pro League and counter signed by members of the Pro League Management Panel. This letter sent on the 27th of February is requesting “an independent investigation relating to the signing of a contract on behalf of the FIH that we have been informed could jeopardise the implementation of the Hockey Pro League and potentially lead to bankruptcy.”

This is an explosive development. It is a development that cannot be ignored and the authors of the letter are to be applauded for penning it. They clearly care not only for the future of the Pro League, but also the future of the game.

The letter advises that the information was disclosed during a meeting on 1st February 2018 and was “confirmed in an email and Broadcast report that was sent to the LMP members and to some FIH Executive Board Members by email on 19th of February 2018.”

The issue outlined in the letter concerns the contract between the FIH and Star Sports in India, in which it is claimed “that the FIH will ensure that India will participate in the Hockey Pro League… and that “the FIH will use its best endeavours to ensure the participation of Pakistan.”

If true this is extremely concerning as it brings into question the whole selection process for the Pro-League. Not only that, it rightly or wrongly puts those on the selection committee in a very difficult position, as now questions will be asked as to how much information was shared with them, and did any of them know the content of the television contracts that had been lined up in various countries should they be selected to participate in the Pro League? Did the Committee ask the right questions and were those questions recorded in any minutes of their meetings?

This committee was made up of some very respected and distinguished individuals and they now find themselves in a very awkward position.

Australian barrister Ken Read was the Chair of the Selection committee, and was joined by the former CEO Jason McCracken, and three Board Members Marijke Flueren, Coco Budeisky and Annie Panter. There was one independent person invited to be a part of the process, Josh Smith who worked for BT Sport at the time, but has now taken on a role at FIFA as Director of Television Services.

Former FIH staffers David Luckes and Sarah Massey were also a part of the Event Portfolio Implementation Panel along with current employee Mathilde Grenet.

It is believed that all received copies of the applications to be a part of the Pro League from the various National Associations. In addition to these applications supplementary information was supplied on each application, and that included some information on the broadcast agreements. It is understood that they were not shown the actual contracts that had been negotiated.

However with the former CEO being a part of the Selection Committee, it is fair to presume that he would have been aware of the content of these contracts, as it is alleged that he was in fact the man authorised to sign the contracts.

The members of the Selection Committee now find themselves in the unenviable position of people wanting to know what information they were given and what was withheld.  Who if anyone on the Committee viewed the contracts? Or was it just the CEO who had access to that information?

As those on the Pro League Management Panel state in their letter “all National Associations were consistently told that the bid procedure for the HPL was going to be fair and that applications were being treated equally, this was verbally communicated to us on several occasions and in written correspondence from the FIH. Clearly the signing of the Star contract during the bid process contradicts that commitment to fairness and equality.”

That said, one can understand Star Sports perspective. If they are to invest in such a league they would want their two biggest viewer drawcards to be a part of it, and to ensure that this was the case for it to make business sense to be involved. Hence they would have wanted that guarantee before signing up or at least a clause that released them from the contract if one or neither were in the Pro-League.

What these developments do explain is why at the start of December it was reported that India, having been selected to be a part of the Pro League and then withdrawn, had the FIH re-open the doors of the league to India despite the nine-team line-up in both men and women being completed way back in July.  Spain and Belgium were included as respective replacements in the Men’s and Women’s competitions.

“The FIH would be delighted to have India as part of the Pro League. The doors are open now but there are some challenges.” The then CEO Jason McCracken was quoted as saying in the Indian press. Maybe these “challenges” are only becoming clear now.

As this situation appears to have only just come to light thanks to the “Broadcast Report” mentioned in the letter, the Pro League Management Panel are right to have requested a full independent investigation. There has to be transparency, and those who made decisions in good faith on the make up of the Pro League deserve to find out what information was withheld from them. They should not be castigated before we find out what information was, and was not shared with them.

Just as the Pro-League management panel should be praised for bringing this matter to light, so too should the FIH Board be praised as it is understood at a meeting on Friday they accepted and agreed that a full investigation should be carried out to protect the integrity of the organisation and the Pro-League.

Where does this leave the Pro-League which is due to commence in January 2019? Who knows? The schedule has come out, the television stations are locked in, but depending on the findings of the independent investigation and how quickly those findings are reached, there may be some nations who feel that they will be entitled to challenge the decisions made.

Haste is the key. The investigation needs to be underway as soon as possible and there needs to be full disclosure on which current allegations, if any, prove to be true and which are not.

This is also important in terms of the reputations of those who were on the Selection Committee, as if information was withheld from them they cannot be held accountable in any way, especially if they asked pertinent questions and those questions have been minuted.

The Hockey Public deserve a swift explanation in relation to the point made in the letter that the FIH could potentially find itself bankrupt. This word understandably has many worried, and asking how this can be so?

Hopefully a press statement will be issued in the next few days advising a course of action and allaying the fears of fans, players, coaches and national associations as to the financial state of the game’s governing body.

Not the Footy Show

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