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News for 10 May 2018

All the news for Thursday 10 May 2018

Countdown to the launch of the FIH Hockey Pro League well underway

Ahead of its launch in January 2019, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) looks ahead to the start of the game-changing Hockey Pro League, which will see the nine best men’s and women’s teams from around the world play each other both at home and away every year.

The inaugural season of the Hockey Pro League begins on 19 January 2019, with 152 matches scheduled to take place between January and June, with national stadiums hosting matches week in, week out.

Nine women’s and nine men’s teams will be competing for the Hockey Pro League title, playing eight home and eight away matches throughout the first six months of every year. The top four teams will then compete to determine the winner in a Grand Final later in June.

The Hockey Pro League features an equally amazing line up of nations, with both the Women's and Men's Leagues featuring a glittering array of the finest international hockey teams on earth. The Women’s League will see Argentina, Australia, Belgium, China, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA all going head to head, while Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and Spain will be fighting it out for the men's title.

The FIH recently confirmed the match schedule for the event, with Spain men will getting things underway when they host Rio 2016 and EuroHockey Championship silver medallists Belgium in the opening match of the Hockey Pro League.

A busy schedule then follows, with the majority of early matches being played in the southern hemisphere.

As one of the early season highlights, Argentina women will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of reigning Hockey World Cup and World League champions Netherlands as the EuroHockey title winners head south to take on Las Leonas on 24 February.

Shortly afterwards the spotlight turns to Australia as their men and women challenge Oceania rivals New Zealand for continental bragging rights over the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend – 17 March. The return matches will take place in New Zealand on Anzac Day – 25 April.

Another continental duel sure to get fans buzzing will be Argentina women’s visit to the USA. The Pan American rivals, who have taken wins against each other in recent months, go head to head on 12 May.

The teams then follow the summer by returning to the northern hemisphere. An exciting end to the League awaits as nations compete to finish in the top four to guarantee qualification for the Grand Final.

With Pakistan men playing in Glasgow, Scotland, their match against Great Britain on 25 May is bound capture the imagination of fans. A large local Pakistani crowd will be looking forward to the friendly rivalry with their British opponents as they aim to defend their home turf in one of Great Britain’s most multi-cultured cities.

European neighbours Germany and Netherlands men always provide lots of goals and drama, and in the Hockey Pro League nothing less can be expected. Whilst Netherlands fans will be looking forward to backing their team in their homeland on 5 March, Germany will be aiming for victory against the European champions on their turf on 26 April.

In what will be a unique, double-header weekend, due to their proximity - Belgium men and women will play at home to Netherlands on the Saturday before replaying the match the following day in the Netherlands over the weekend of 8 and 9 June.

Another highlight in the women’s competition will be the game between continental rivals Great Britain and Netherlands in what will be a rematch of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games final. As the world’s number one ranked team, the Dutch will look to gain psychological advantage from their first encounter against the Olympic champions at their home turf on 1 June, before heading to Great Britain on 15 June.

Similarly, Argentina and Belgium men also have an ongoing rivalry following their Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medal match. On that occasion Argentina men emerged victorious therefore Belgium will be wanting to turn the tables in what will be a dramatic end to their season on 23 June – the very last day of League competition.

Looking ahead to the start of this exhilarating new competition, FIH CEO Thierry Weil said: "The planning for this ground-breaking event has been years in the making and we are extremely excited about the start of this competition on 19th January 2019. We have been pleased by the positive response from our stakeholders, who have recognised the importance of creating a product that will attract even more fans, television coverage and commercial partners."

He continued: "The Hockey Pro League and the recently announced Hockey Series are both central to the New Event Portfolio, which has been developed to raise the global status and popularity of hockey as part of our ambition to make hockey ‘a global game that inspires future generations’. We believe that these innovative changes will have a huge impact on the continuing development and growth of hockey in all corners of the world, attracting an army of new fans, players, coaches and officials to the sport."

For further information about the Hockey Pro League, visit the Q&A section on the FIH website by clicking here.

Grand Final: 144 matches will take place as part of the League stage. A further eight matches will then take place at the Grand Final. This will take place in the Netherlands in June 2019 on dates yet to be confirmed. FIH will issue a press release once dates and a venue have been approved.


FIH site

Hockey is first among equals

After a busy few weeks preparing for and participating in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, Great Britain and England midfielder Susannah Townsend was on hand to watch another sporting showcase as she witnessed the English domestic finals for women’s rugby union. This experience made her think about the progress being made in her sport ahead of this summer’s Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018.

“After the Commonwealth Games I treated myself to a very lazy holiday in Thailand which I feel will do me the world of good leading into the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018. With my phone locked away in the safe I enjoyed taking time away and mentally and physically resting.

I am going to touch on my experiences within hockey and other sports and how they compare..  I must emphasise that what I am about to talk about is very much my own opinion and is something I have been thinking about writing for a long time, so here goes…

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games was the third major sporting event I have been to that had parity between men and women in all sports. There wasn’t a big deal made about this, because quite rightly, it should just be a fact of life. 

I see this as the a testament to the legacy of change of empowering women, going back to tennis star Billie-Jean King and more recently Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams and former Great Britain and England hockey captain Kate Richardson-Walsh. What they and many more women continue to do in a strong manner, has shown the world how to treat and portray women playing sport and that it isn’t in any way inferior to men’s sport.

Imagine my disappointment then when on my first weekend home, I discovered that this new normal hadn’t followed me back to the UK. I had tickets for the women’s Tyrells’s Premiership Rugby 15’s Finals.

This was a big deal; these 60 athletes  representing the two finalists work full-time and train every day. They balance jobs and families with their rugby commitments and inspire young boys and girls to get onto a rugby pitch.

While the female players in the top teams receive more support than other clubs, this is still a good way off from the male players who are full-time, well-paid athletes.

Funding and club support for the elite women players will come soon and these things take time but what was disappointing was that this grand final was hosted at a local club ground rather than at a stadium. The fans were squeezed in and there were hardly any seats and no big screens to watch replays of pivotal moments. 

It is certainly not showcasing rugby to a wider community to the degree that it could be. And I can vouch for the high quality of the match – this was anything but a shallow imitation of the men’s game - it was rugby at its best.

Like any international athlete I want to play in the best stadiums in the world and I can only imagine rugby players at international and club levels feel the same.

Although disappointing to witness the experience has left me feeling proud of the sport I play. At the England Hockey League Finals on the same weekend, the men’s and women’s matches were played alongside each other creating a fun day out and encouraging the men’s and women’s teams to support each other. This is very normal in our sport.

At the big international events I have had the honour of playing in, the men’s and women’s events get equal billing. We get equal broadcast coverage, we get equal access to top rate facilities. This is true at European, Commonwealth, Olympic and World Cup level. In London, in just under 80 day’s time, I know that women’s hockey will be given the same stature and support as the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, which takes place later in the year.

As hockey players, we are all equal and I feel very proud to play a sport that showcases that. I hope other sports can take note and learn from hockey’s example and would encourage fans of all other sports to come along to the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 to witness our ‘Equally Amazing’ sport live.”


FIH site

Sergio's Diablas dare to dream

Sarah Juggins, for PAHF

Picture by Oscar Muñoz Badilla.

Sergio Vigil is well known to hockey fans across the Pan American region. A member of the Argentina men’s team that contested the Men’s Hockey World Cups in and 1986 and 1990, since retiring as a player, Vigil has become a living legend as a high performance coach.

Under his guidance, the Argentina women’s team won the World Cup in 2002, took silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and won many other trophies besides. He also spent four years, from 2004 until 2008, coaching the Argentina men’s team.

Now Vigil is using his coaching magic to transform another South American team – Chile women.

The Diablas have been impressing the hockey world in recent years, not just in South America but across the globe. They have moved up the FIH Hero World Rankings (WR) to 15th courtesy of good performances in the 2017 Hockey World League series as well as a first silver medal at the Pan American Cup.

At the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg, Chile – who were ranked 20th at the time – finished in ninth position. Among the performances that surprised the higher ranked teams was a 1-0 defeat of South Africa (WR: 13) and the 2-1 defeat of Poland (WR: 18). The belief that Vigil had installed in his team was verbalised by Denise Krimerman who, rather than being delighted at her team’s performance, mourned the fact that Chile had not qualified for the World Cup via the HWL Semi Finals.

Things got even better when Chile took silver at the Pan American Cup in Lancaster, USA, in 2017. Beating the home nation, who were ranked fourth in the world at the time, was a triumph for a nation that has been languishing in the mid table of hockey nations for so long.

So what is the magic formula that Vigil is employing to get his players to perform so well and so consistently?

First and foremost, Vigil has encouraged his players to set lofty ambitions and to put the team above all else. “They are prioritising hockey and committing to improving their performances. These players have chosen to take charge of their own sporting future and to commit to making the dreams become a reality. And they play for the shirt, they will battle to deliver on the field in the name of the Diablas shirt.”

Where many coaches will talk about processes and targets, Vigil takes an almost poetic approach. He talks of player’s creating their own dreams, following their pathways and being a ‘fist’ rather than a ‘pointing finger’, because a fist meets you [the symbolic fist-bump] and never points at you [in an accusatory manner].

The beacon that guides his players, says Vigil, are based in four tenets: trust, conviction, communication and consistency.

On a practical workaday level, Vigil adopts a team-based approach. Working groups comprising coaching staff and players are encouraged to discuss issues and come up with solutions. It is important, he says, that each member of the group feels valued and listened to.

The Argentine is clearly impressed with the level of commitment his players are showing so far. At both the Hockey World League Semi Finals and the Pan American Cup, the team faced tough challenges from higher ranked and far more experienced teams, but they both stepped up to the challenge and put pressure of their own on the opposition. The surprise factor worked in Chile’s favour and Vigil barely surpasses a smile when he refers to the spirit his players demonstrated in these matches.

But Vigil and his players will not dwell on past successes. Now is the time to capitalise on the experience gained at the hands of high ranked teams such as Argentina, India and USA. “We need to get stronger and fitter as a team and we must build on our strengths that have served us well so far. When we fall, we must get up stronger.

“There is always improvement to be made. Every day we learn something new, whether it be tactically, technically, physically, mentally or spiritually. Chasing success is an ongoing challenge.”

And in line with this sentiment, Vigil sees his role as just one part of a much bigger picture. “We must have the ‘big dream’; we must have a strategy to get there; and we must take short steps to get there.”

The ultimate dream is for Chile women to qualify for the Olympic Games, but he says, this is not something that the current group of players and coaching staff can achieve in isolation. It has to be the ambition of all hockey players and supporters in Chile, from the grass roots to the elite level. This is the legacy that Vigil hopes to leave. “It is like being a farmer growing bamboo. You leave a fertile field and a footprint so that others can follow, nourish and improve upon your work.”

I asked how Vigil views hockey across the South American region?

“I see that hockey in South America improves almost daily. Las Leonas have been instrumental in this happening. They lit a flame on the continent and taught us that if you are allowed to dream and then follow that dream with conviction, effort, courage, creativity, trust and humility, then the impossible becomes possible.

“Team such as Uruguay and Chile have grown a lot and play international hockey. Unfortunately both teams lack their own pitches where they can train for longer and under better conditions and make the next step into elite international hockey.

“Paraguay has shown great potential and continues to grow. Peru too, is developing quickly and Lima will provide a great venue for the Pan American Games next year. Bolivia is a young nation that is thirsty for success. The Odesur [South American] Games in Bolivia will provide a great boost for hockey in hat country. Venezuela has its issues but we are all here to help them develop the sport.”

Above all else, Sergio Vigil takes a sanguine approach to his team’s performance, believing that each result, win or lose, can be turned into a positive learning opportunity. It is the only way, he says, that you can achieve longer term success.

And in an aside, which sums up the character of this charming Argentine, he ends the interview with an exhortation to “Love what you do, go crazy, be insane about it!”

Pan American Hockey Federation media release

Hockeyroos must be more ruthless at hockey World Cup, says Paul Gaudoin

By The Hockey Paper

Paul Gaudoin is a former Kookaburras defender (PIC: Grant Treeby)

Paul Gaudoin, the Hockeyroos coach, says that Australia must be “more ruthless” at this summer’s Vitality women’s Hockey World Cup in London.

The year’s showpiece event is the next big tournament on the agenda for the world’s top teams following the Commonwealth Games, which featured leading teams England, Australia and New Zealand, the eventual gold medallists.

The Black Sticks beat the hosts on the Gold Coast in the final and Gaudoin, who took over the Hockeyroos role after a poor Rio Olympics, has tasked his players of making more of their opportunities in London – especially with the Netherlands and Argentina rejoining the global stage in July.

“It was pleasing to make the final but our performance in the final was disappointing,” he said. “I think credit to New Zealand, who played a very good game and came to play. We need to learn from that.

“We need to recognise when you get an opportunity, you’ve got to take it. We’ve got to be more ruthless in terms of when we play big matches. That’s important for us. I’d rather this be now than the World Cup but at the same time, when you play in a final, it’s an opportunity to get that feeling and the pressure that goes with that.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted. We didn’t deserve to get the result we wanted on our performance on that day. We want to make sure we’re learning, building and improving every time we get an opportunity to represent Australia.”

The Hockeyroos will be further tested by the Commonwealth champions when the trans-Tasman rivals play alongside Japan at a Tri-Nations tourmament this month.

Gaudoin has made six changes to the squad, with Kristina Bates, Lily Brazel, Kalindi Commerford, Madison Fitzpatrick, Kathryn Slattery and Ashlee Wells all coming in.

“We want to ensure we’re still unpredictable when we get to the World Cup,” he added. “And this will give us better knowledge and information for when we select the final group for the World Cup.

“At the end of the day New Zealand have played in the last three major international finals, including Commonwealth Games, World League Final and World League Semi-Final. They’re a very good team. They’re in a bit of form at the moment. In terms of competition, it’s a great opportunity for us to challenge ourselves against one of the top teams in the world.”

The Hockey Paper

Hockey Australia Announces Hockeyroos Coaching Team Changes

Ben Somerford

Hockey Australia has today confirmed changes to the coaching staff within the Women’s Hockey Program with the departure of Assistant Coach David Guest.

Guest, a former Kookaburras player and Olympic bronze medallist for Australia, was thanked for his contribution to the Hockeyroos’ program by Head Coach Paul Gaudoin.

“David has been an important part of the women’s program over the past year. His experience as a former player and his passion for our sport has been an asset, and we wish him all the best for the future,” Gaudoin said.

The Hockeyroos will play in New Zealand later this month in preparation for the Hockey World Cup held in London in July and August 2018. Hockey Australia will announce interim coaching arrangements shortly.

Hockey Australia media release

UJ need to hit the ground running

Francois Joubert of NWU (right) gives chase as Manessah Dube of UJ controls possession during their clash in the Varsity Hockey tournament at Wits in Johannesburg last weekend. Picture: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

After two wins and two losses on the opening weekend, University of Johannesburg men’s coach Garreth Ewing says they have to hit the ground running when the Varsity Hockey tournament resumes on Friday.

The final three rounds of the league phase take place at University of Pretoria from Friday to Sunday, with the play-offs starting on Monday.

UJ, who had wins over Free State and NWU-Pukke, are fifth on the log and Ewing said wins against Madibaz and University of Cape Town were non-negotiable if they wanted to finish in the top four.

“With Stellenbosch and Pretoria unbeaten, there is a bit of a queue between third and sixth place and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in those results,” he said.

“A lot of us are playing each other this weekend so it’s going to come down to a knockout element in a number of games.

“I feel we have to beat Madibaz and UCT and then see what happens in the other matches.”

UJ, Wits and UCT all sit on six points at the moment, followed by NWU-Pukke and Free State on three points.

Although Madibaz had a tough weekend, losing all four games, Ewing said there would be no pushovers in their remaining fixtures.

“We know Madibaz will have learnt from the weekend. They have a fairly young team and we will definitely not be underestimating them.

“And UCT have looked very organised. Both teams have strengths they will tap into and we just have to make sure we are better than we were this weekend.”

The UJ mentor said there were a number of positives they would take into the next round of matches.

“There was a steady improvement from day one and even though we lost on Monday night, we played a pretty good game.

“Tactically we’ve been pretty accurate in terms of planning. We have a relatively young side and they have done the job that is required of them.”

He added that his message to the team would be to have greater accuracy on attack.

“Our goal-scoring was not what it should have been. As a side who like to play attacking hockey we will always create a number of chances.

“We attacked well but we haven’t been good enough in the opposition 25.

“If we can improve by five to 10% in that department, we are going to look like a different team.”

Ewing felt the team was not consistent enough throughout the 60 minutes last weekend.

“Our opponents played their big moments better than we did. We did lose to two good teams [UP-Tuks and Wits], but I think we could have done a little bit better.”

Fullstop Communications media release for University of Johannesburg Hockey

Hockey family: McCluskey brothers rack up achievements and target Grand Finals

The McCluskey Brothers with the men’s Scottish Cup – photo by Mark Pugh

When John and younger brother Ritchie McCluskey lifted the Men’s Scottish Cup with Grange on Saturday they capped what has been an incredible story of achievement in their young hockey careers so far.

The brothers won the Scottish Cup with Grange and John, aged 21, supplied the second goal and scored the sixth on the day. This makes it three Scottish Cup medals, one Scottish Plate, and a National League 1 success for John. Ritchie, aged 17, meanwhile has won Central 1 and the District Cup with Grange 2’s last season, and has now added National League 1 and Scottish Cup success to his CV this season with his brother by his side.

In addition Ritchie has won every Inter-District and club age group tournament that he has been eligible for this year, and has represented Scotland as part of the U18 Scotland squad at last year’s Futures Cup.

These successes only scratch the surface of the amount of medals the duo have won.

The brothers are both on the Scotland national performance pathway with John having represented Scotland at U18 & U21 levels, and Ritchie in Scottish blue at U16 & U18 age groups.

Next up for both brothers is a tough weekend of National League Play-Offs with John and Ritchie both hoping to help Grange reach and succeed in this weekend’s Grand Finals.

John McCluskey said, “Winning both the league and the Scottish Cup playing alongside Ritchie has definitely been a highlight of a very successful few years for us both. I think it’s a credit to the Grange youth system to have so many young players coming up into the team but it’s not a surprise seeing the success the junior teams have had this year.

“It has been the first time we have managed to really play together in the same team because of us having a reasonably big age gap of four and a half years, so this is hopefully the start of a long playing career together.

“We are very competitive with each other and that has most likely been part of the reason for the success we have both had so far, but for now we are focused on giving the best performance we can for this tough weekend of playoffs. Then hopefully after this we can both play in the EHL together and then in the future maybe even get to the dream scenario where we play next to each other in a Scotland shirt.”

In the coming weeks John will be taking the trip to Vienna with Grange to compete in EuroHockey Club Championships II, which Ritchie will sadly miss out on as the dates clashed with his higher examinations. Ritchie however is currently in training for a place to represent Scotland in the upcoming U18 EuroHockey Championships II in Wales.

Ritchie McCluskey said, “The last two years have been amazing and to end this season by winning National League 1 & the Scottish Cup playing alongside John has definitely been a highlight. Now I just have to concentrate on the playoffs this weekend & my higher exams. After that it’s back to training to fight for selection for the upcoming U18 European Championships in Wales.”

Family is at the heart of hockey in Scotland and the McCluskey brothers have added the latest great narrative to the hockey family story.

Will they add a Grand Finals medal to their collection this weekend?

Scottish Hockey Union media release

St Mary’s retain regional hockey crown

In a tough final game against Westville Girls’ High School, St Mary’s DSG, Kloof emerged victorious.

Lloyd Mackenzie

St Mary's DSG's Kiana Cormack holds onto possession of the ball as Westville Girls' High School's Kerryn Swanepoel shadows her in the finals of the Highway Regional of the SPAR KZN School Girls' Hockey Challenge. PHOTO: Jonathan Burton

A HARD-FOUGHT battle against the hosts, Westville Girls High School, saw St Mary’s DSG, Kloof defend their title and maintain their reign as champions of the Highway Regional of South Africa's SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Challenge.

The Saints added to their six titles in this regional when they defeated Westville in a riveting final that concluded in a penalty shootout. Saints opened up their account with their first goal smashed in after 66 seconds of play. The powerful shot was made by ace striker, Tayla Thwaits.

The ball was pushed right from the castle to Thwaits who controlled the ball and then sent it flying.

Saints camped out around the Westville circle, earning themselves another two short corners that were both defended. They also had three shots at goals that Westville dealt with valiantly.

With 95 seconds remaining in the first half, Kiana Cormack found herself unmarked in front of the goals, spun around controlling the ball to the left of her, and slipped the ball in with a second goal for Saints.

Saints continued dominating the final with their fourth short corner that Westville again defended.

In a moment of brilliance, Kerryn Swanepoel ignited her Westville team with a solo run down the left, leaving Saints scrambling with only two defenders still at the back.

Swanepoel weaved around the first, dodging the second but the first Saints defender chopped Swanepoel’s stick. Standing on the spot, no-nonsense umpire Mike Lees split his arms indicating a penalty flick for Westville. A calm Swanepoel stepped up to the spot and slotted her shot into the top left corner.

Four minutes later Swanepoel charged down the right of the field and surged towards the Saints circle. She made a dash for the goals but was forced out of play by a harsh shoulder charge from St Marys.

This resulted in her second penalty flick that she bravely converted, levelling the score at two a piece.

The game then progressed to three players from both teams taking an eight second penalty shootout. After three rounds, both teams only managed to slot in one goal each, and the score line was pegged at 1 – 1.

The finals then went to a sudden death, with the same three players stepping up for another chance. Two more rounds were played with no winner being revealed.

Leah Piggot slotted in her shot, going one up for Saints.

Special mention was made of the Westville keeper, Saiyuri Govender, for her fearless display on the line throughout the game.

Saints are the eighth team to head to the Grand Finals that they will host on 21 and 22 July.

Highway Mail

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