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News for 31 January 2019

All the news for Thursday 31 January 2019

USWNT and Chile Finish Series in a Draw, Sharkey Earns 150th International Cap

SANTIAGO, Chile - In their final game of a two-match series yesterday at the Prince of Wales Club, the U.S. Women's National Team started strong against No. 16 Chile, jumping to a two-goal lead. This was cut in half by the resilient host nation as the game continued to be a battle and eventually finish in a 3-3 draw. Today, the USWNT will travel to Argentina for their first FIH Pro League match.

Off the opening whistle, USA jumped out quick and took control of the opening stages of the game. The first quarter saw a lot of back and forth options but three minutes into the second frame, USA got on the board. Captain Kathleen Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) received a cross from Taylor West (Princess Anne, Md.) deep in the circle before deftly eliminating Chile goalkeeper Natalie Salvador and finishing at close range. USA held the 1-0 lead going into halftime.

In the third quarter, USA extended their lead in the 34th minute when Mackenzie Allessie (Mount Joy, Pa.) was on the back post to tab it in to tally her first career goal. Six minutes later, Chile cut the lead in half with a field goal from Maria Maldonado. USA continued to threaten and three minutes into the final frame regained their two goal cushion when Jill Funk (Lancaster, Pa.) applied the finishing touch on a penalty corner option to make it 3-1 in favor of USA.
Chile started to apply high pressure in the fourth quarter and were able to battle back into the game. In the 51st minute, the Damas' Manuela Urroz deflected in a finish before tying the game six minutes off a well-executed penalty corner through Constanza Palma. USA pushed hard for the winning goal in the final minutes but were unable to capitalize on a late penalty corner as the score finished in a 3-3 draw.
A career milestone was reached in today’s match as goal scorer Sharkey secured her 150th international cap with Team USA.

L to R: Janneke Schopman, USWNT Head Coach, & Kathleen Sharkey

The U.S. Women’s National Team will travel to Cordoba, Argentina to play their first FIH Pro League game against No. 4 Argentina. For more information on the FIH Pro League including schedule, results, roster, news and more, visit the official event program by clicking here.

USFHA media release

2019 3 Nations Invitational (M) - Day 2
Benalmadena (ESP)

Result 30 January

WAL v BRA (RR)     4 - 4

Pool standings

Rank Team Played Wins Draws Losses Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
1 United States 1 1 0 0 3 1 2 3
2 Brazil 1 0 1 0 4 4 0 1
3 Wales 2 0 1 1 5 7 -2 1

FIH Match Centre

It's all in the detail for Belgium Red Panthers

Belgium Red Panthers opened their FIH Pro League account with a creditable result against Argentina. Although the Belgium side lost that game 2-0, the difference in rankings [Argentina are fourth in the FIH Hero World Rankings and Belgium are 13th] and Belgium’s relative inexperience at this level meant that the result was far from a disaster.

Speaking after the game against Argentina, Belgium’s captain Barbara Nelen had spoken about the periods her side had dominated the game and the chances they had created against their higher ranked opponents.

And that is the point about this Belgium side – of all the teams in the FIH Pro League, they are the ones who are the greatest work in progress. Head Coach Niels Thijssen has been in post for two years and has introduced new ways of training and playing that are now bearing fruit. And, with every competition, the team are gaining experience and developing their style of play. At the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup the team won a lot of new fans with their stylish passing game; their 6-3 win over Japan was one of the most entertaining games of the competition. For Thijssen and his team it is now about fine-tuning the details.

One player who has been a regular fixture throughout the Red Panther’s development period is forward Jill Boon. She spoke to us while her team were undertaking the long journey from Argentina to New Zealand, where they face the Black Sticks.

“We want to focus on our game and plan for each match,” she said. “We played some good games at the World Cup but for just a couple of minutes we switched off and it cost us two goals right away. If work on the details that cuts those errors, then that allows us to manage a game better.

“Ultimately, we want to get on the field to win points and to give it our all in every match. If we keep focussing on our game and plan, we'll have great chances to win points in the coming games.”

Speaking about the match against Argentina, Boon said she and the entire team were relieved that the wait was over and they had finally got their FIH Pro League campaign underway. And the thousands of Las Leonas fans, did they pose a challenge? Not for the calm Boon: “It was great to start our campaign in a country that shows so much passion for our sport. Of course we were playing one of the strongest teams in the competition, but we stayed focus and played a good game.”

One of the challenges that face all the teams in the new league is coping with the travel and subsequent jet-lag. But Belgium’s drive to cover every last detail extends to travel as well. Like the Netherlands, Belgium has invested in technology – namely special glasses that cuts blue light – designed to help the players adjust their sleep patterns. They also adjust their eating and sleeping times so when they arrive at a new destination, they are able to adapt to the time zone quickly.

And, as Boon adds, the excitement factor of knowing their is an important match ahead is more than enough to drive away any residual feelings of lethargy. “With the format of this competition, every game is all or nothing, which is a really good challenge. There is no time to settle into the tournament, you have to be ready right away. It's super exciting."

Belgium face New Zealand in Auckland on 1 February. Both teams are seeking a first win, after New Zealand lost to the Netherlands in their opening fixture.


Official FIH Pro League Site

Kookaburras Team Named For FIH Pro League Bumper Weekend

Ben Somerford

Hockey Australia today confirms the first-ever Kookaburras team for the inaugural FIH Pro League matches against the Netherlands and Belgium at Melbourne’s State Netball and Hockey Centre this weekend.

Australia will play their first matches in the world-first FIH Pro League which pits the world’s best nations against each other on a weekly home-and-away basis.

The world number two Kookaburras will play last month’s World Cup runners-up Netherlands (ranked third) and World Cup winners Belgium (ranked first).

They’ll be seeking revenge on Saturday, with the Kookaburras knocked out in the World Cup semis by the Dutch in December.

The Kookaburras have named a 20-member travelling party for the two matches, including local trio Johan Durst, Aaron Kleinschmidt and Josh Simmonds.

Kookaburras coach Colin Batch said: “It’s a balanced selection for Melbourne where we want to give everyone an opportunity at this stage.

“We’re looking at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and what that might bring so we’re looking to give people an opportunity starting with the FIH Pro League.”

On the opposition, Batch added: “It’s a great coup for Melbourne. We’ve got the number one, number two and number three in the world but also the gold, silver and bronze medallists for the World Cup so the Melbourne fans are in for a treat.”

Saturday’s matches against the Netherlands will LIVE on FOX SPORTS 507 from 3pm AEDT, while Sunday’s matches against Belgium will be delayed on FOX SPORTS and live on kayosports.com.au.

Tickets are selling fast but still available for the Melbourne matches by ticketbooth.com.au.

Australian home fixtures (*all times are local)

Saturday 2 February 2019 - State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne
Kookaburras v Netherlands - 3pm, Hockeyroos v Netherlands - 5pm
Sunday 3 February 2019 - State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne
Kookaburras v Belgium - 3pm, Hockeyroos v Belgium - 5pm

Kookaburras 20-member team:
Athlete (Hometown, State)
Jacob Anderson (Mackay, QLD)
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD)
Joshua Beltz (Hobart, TAS)
Timothy Brand (Chatswood, NSW)
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT)
Tom Craig (Lane Cove, NSW)
Johan Durst (Melbourne, VIC)
Blake Govers (Wollongong, NSW)
Jake Harvie (Dardanup, WA)
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT)
Tim Howard (Wakerley, QLD)
Aaron Kleinschmidt (Melbourne, VIC)
Trent Mitton (Perth, WA)
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS)
Lachlan Sharp (Lithgow, NSW)
Joshua Simmonds (Melbourne, VIC)
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD)
Corey Weyer (Biggera Waters, QLD)
Jake Whetton (Brisbane, QLD)
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA)

Hockey Australia media release

Duo’s Return Highlights First-Ever Roos FIH Pro League Team

Ben Somerford

Hockey Australia today confirms the first-ever Hockeyroos team for the inaugural FIH Pro League matches against the Netherlands and Belgium at Melbourne’s State Netball and Hockey Centre this weekend.

Australia will play their first matches in the world-first FIH Pro League which pits the world’s best nations against each other on a weekly home-and-away basis.

The world number three Hockeyroos will take on the world number one Dutch, who won the World Cup and Champions Trophy in 2018, and 13th-ranked Belgium.

The Netherlands defeated the Hockeyroos in November’s Champions Trophy final and August’s World Cup semis on penalties, so revenge will be on the Australians’ minds.

Georgia Wilson and Mariah Williams both return from long-term injuries for the Hockeyroos in the big positive news from selection.

Wilson hasn’t played since November 2017 after suffering an ACL injury in January 2018, while Williams’ last cap was in April 2017.

Victorians Kristina Bates, Lily Brazel, Rachael Lynch, Hayley Padget, Sophie Taylor and Ashlee Wells are also included for the matches in their home state.

Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin said: “It’s fantastic for Georgia and Mariah. They’ve had long-term injuries, Georgia with her ACL and Mariah with her groin.

“They’ve put in a lot of hard work so it’s pleasing we’ve been able to select them for the games in Melbourne.”

On the opposition, Gaudoin added: “Holland are the best team in the world and it’s a great test for us to start the FIH Pro League. Belgium as well, both games are going to be very tough.

“Belgium are getting better, we saw that at the World Cup with some of their results. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Saturday’s matches against the Netherlands will LIVE on FOX SPORTS 507 from 3pm AEDT, while Sunday’s matches against Belgium will be delayed on FOX SPORTS and live on kayosports.com.au.

Tickets are selling fast but still available for the Melbourne matches by ticketbooth.com.au.

Australian home fixtures (*all times are local)

Saturday 2 February 2019 - State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne
Kookaburras v Netherlands - 3pm, Hockeyroos v Netherlands - 5pm
Sunday 3 February 2019 - State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne
Kookaburras v Belgium - 3pm, Hockeyroos v Belgium - 5pm

Hockeyroos 18-member team:
Athlete (Hometown, State)
Kristina Bates (Port Melbourne, VIC)
Edwina Bone (Orange, NSW) *Plays for ACT
Lily Brazel (Sydney, NSW) *Plays for VIC
Emily Chalker (Crookwell, NSW)
Jane Claxton (Adelaide, SA)
Madison Fitzpatrick (Cabarita Beach, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Savannah Fitzpatrick (Cabarita Beach, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Jodie Kenny (Wamuran, QLD)
Rachael Lynch (Warrandyte, VIC)
Ambrosia Malone (Burleigh, QLD)
Kaitlin Nobbs (Newington, NSW)
Hayley Padget (Doncaster, VIC)
Brooke Peris (Darwin, NT)
Grace Stewart (Gerringong, NSW)
Sophie Taylor (Melbourne, VIC)
Ashlee Wells (Morwell, VIC) *Plays for SA
Mariah Williams (Parkes, NSW)
Georgia Wilson (Mahogany Creek, WA)

Hockey Australia media release

GB Women's Squad Selected For Opening FIH Pro League Matches

The Great Britain Hockey women's squad to face New Zealand, Australia and China in the FIH Pro League has been named.

The squad travel out to Oceania this evening alongside their male counterparts this Wednesday ahead of their double header matches against New Zealand and Australia, before the women travel on to China.

Our women’s side face three teams ranked in the top ten in the world, and we have selected a talented squad with a number of new, high potential players that will bring vibrancy, energy and excitement to the team. Holly Hunt, Holly Munro and Lizzie Neal could make their international debuts, while Tess Howard has also been selected after impressing in her first senior international competition at the Hockey Champions Trophy in November 2018.

Hollie Pearne-Webb, who won gold with GB at the Rio 2016 Olympics, is the most capped player in the squad and will captain the side. Alex Danson is among a number of players who are currently unavailable for selection.

Sarah Jones represents Wales as part of this GB squad and could reach a century of international appearances having made 97 to date, 91 of them for her home nation. Scotland are represented by both Sarah Robertson and Nikki Cochrane. England’s Anna Toman is three appearances away from 50 international caps.
As Acting Head Coach for the women’s squad before the appointment of Mark Hager, David Ralph commented: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for an exciting team to showcase what they are capable of, to perform against some of the best teams in the world, and set us on our path as GB for the qualification process for the Olympics.

“Hopefully there will be a big crowd and good atmosphere at the games. We’re in this sport to play in big events, every one of these games is very important, we’re going into their back yard and we’re excited about delivering on the pitch.

“The FIH Pro League is incredibly important on two fronts. Firstly as an event in itself and a revolution for the sport. Secondly, this year it plays a key part in Olympic qualification so we’re very excited about playing our first games in the tournament.”

New coach Mark Hager will meet up with the squad in New Zealand ahead of the first game, and will share coaching responsibilities with David Ralph and Kevin Johnson as he gets to know the players for the first time.

The new FIH Pro League has started in fine fashion, with 31 goals in the first six women’s and men’s matches. Great Britain’s men secured a superb 6-5 win in their first game, coming from 4-1 down to beat Spain in Valencia.

GB women’s squad to face New Zealand, Australia and China
Giselle Ansley (ENG)
Grace Balsdon (ENG)
Nikki Cochrane (SCO)
Emily Defroand (ENG)
Sarah Evans (ENG)
Tess Howard (ENG)
Holly Hunt (ENG)
Sarah Jones (WAL)
Hannah Martin (ENG)
Holly Munro (ENG)*
Lizzie Neal (ENG)
Lily Owsley (ENG)
Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt) (ENG)
Suzy Petty (ENG)
Jo Hunter (ENG)
Ellie Rayer (ENG)
Sarah Robertson (SCO)
Erica Sanders (ENG)
Amy Tennant (ENG)
Anna Toman (ENG)

*Holly Munro will join up with the squad ahead of the Australia fixture.

All Great Britain FIH Pro League matches will be shown on BT Sport.

Great Britain Hockey media release

Great Britain women set for Hockey Pro League debut and Mark Hager tenure

By Rod Gilmour

GB will play in three countries in lengthy Pro League trip Pic: World Sport Pics

So long, Olympic champions! The Great Britain women’s team set off for their first Pro League matches on Wednesday evening, a campaign which will take in three countries and their longest trip outside of the Olympic Games.

The squad travelled out to Christchurch alongside their male counterparts ahead of Hockey Pro League double header fixtures against New Zealand and Australia, before the women move on to China for a one-off clash on Feb 23.

This trip will be the first time that incumbent Australian coach Mark Hager, appointed earlier this month, sees his new batch of players in action.

The GB squad features a 20-strong team, with changes made once again from their last campaign at the Champions Trophy.

It is understood that the highly-rated Hager didn’t choose the squad, while he is expected to take charge in time for the European legs once he has got to know the players. It is also believed that Hager, 54, will live full-time in the UK for his new role.

Great Britain’s arrival in New Zealand could come at an awkward time, with the independent review, launched last year after a negative team environment surfaced within New Zealand hockey and which centres on Hager’s tenure, expected shortly.

Reports suggest that the findings could be released before GB’s first match on Feb 8.

It is hoped that the drawn-out saga – which has also seen problems emerge within other high performance sports in New Zealand – can then be put to bed and leave Hager to focus on Olympic qualification with GB women.

The Hockey Paper has spoken to a number of athletes and hockey insiders who have worked or know Hager and the belief is that GB Hockey has employed a stand-out figure following his near 10-year tenure with the Black Sticks.

Several insiders believe that Hager, a formidable forward during his playing days with the Kookaburras, was wrongly thrust at the centre of a negative culture filtering into New Zealand hockey, following several player allegations which emerged after New Zealand’s World Cup exit last summer. Subsequently, former players showed their support for Hager.

For now, Hager will get to know a number of new faces in Oceania. Holly Hunt, Holly Munro and Lizzie Neal will likely make their international debuts, while Tess Howard retains her place after impressing at the Champions Trophy.

Hollie Pearne-Webb will captain the side, while three players, including Alex Danson, are still recovering from concussion. Other notable absentees from the squad include Laura Unsworth, Susannah Townsend and Sophie Bray.

GB’s Holly Munro

Acting head coach David Ralph said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for an exciting team to showcase what they are capable of, to perform against some of the best teams in the world, and set us on our path as GB for the qualification process for the Olympics.

“We’re in this sport to play in big events, every one of these games is very important, we’re going into their back yard and we’re excited about delivering on the pitch.

“The FIH Pro League is incredibly important on two fronts. Firstly as an event in itself and a revolution for the sport. Secondly, this year it plays a key part in Olympic qualification so we’re very excited about playing our first games in the tournament.”

Hager, who featured at the 1988 Olympics, will meet up with the squad in New Zealand ahead of the first game against, ironically, the Black Sticks. According to Great Britain Hockey, he will share coaching responsibilities with Ralph and Kevin Johnson.

GB women’s squad

Giselle Ansley (Eng), Grace Balsdon (Eng), Nikki Cochrane (Sco), Emily Defroand (Eng), Sarah Evans (Eng), Tess Howard (Eng), Holly Hunt (Eng), Sarah Jones (Wal), Hannah Martin (Eng), Holly Munro (Eng), Lizzie Neal (Eng), Lily Owsley (Eng), Hollie Pearne-Webb (captain, Eng), Suzy Petty (Eng), Jo Hunter (Eng), Ellie Rayer (Eng), Sarah Robertson (Sco), Erica Sanders (Eng), Amy Tennant (Eng), Anna Toman (Eng).

The Hockey Paper

What's killing Pakistan hockey?

Debayan Sen

Pakistan's players look on during the Group A match of the World League semi-final against India in Brasschaat, Belgium, on June 26, 2015. LUC CLAESSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Few international hockey teams have a history as storied as the Pakistan men's side. Four World Cup titles, the most by any nation in the history of the sport. Three Olympic gold medals, including the first to break the six consecutive golds won by neighbours and arch rivals India.

For anyone growing up watching hockey, as recently as during the 1990s, few teams personified big-match temperament and swagger like the Pakistanis.

Today, though, that swagger has faded, and the entire edifice on which Pakistan hockey rests, lies teetering on the edge. For a nation with three Olympic golds, and consecutive appearances at the Games between 1948 and 2012 (broken only by a boycott in 1980), they run the risk of a heavy decline.

A week ago, on January 23, Pakistan cited "inevitable circumstances" in withdrawing from their first four games in the Pro League -- the League only launched earlier this month by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). The FIH responded by ejecting them from the nine-team event, with the possibility of a year-long ban and monetary fines.

'Water above our heads now'

The FIH told ESPN that it will make a "thorough analysis" before taking "appropriate decisions". However, even without any sanctions, 12th-ranked Pakistan have made their own road to qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics very rocky.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) itself is in a tailspin. Former captain and secretary Shahbaz Ahmed has handed in his resignation, but the president Khalid Sajjad Khokhar is yet to accept it. Former Olympians have urged prime minister and former World Cup-winning cricketer Imran Khan to intervene, especially given the serial nature of PHF's financial woes in recent months. ESPN repeatedly reached out to Ahmed and other PHF officials for their comments on the current situation, but received no response.

Pakistan hockey's financial struggles aren't new: When Pakistan shared the Asian Champions Trophy crown with India in Muscat last October, they were able to continue living in their hotel before the final only because the Embassy intervened and helped settle all the PHF's pending bills. A month on, they were able to travel to Bhubaneswar for the World Cup only when the Haier group, associated with cricket's Peshawar Zalmi franchise, came forward and helped with funds.

"Paani ab sar se guzar chuka hai (the water is above our heads now)", says former striker Shakeel Abbasi, who had a 13-year career with Pakistan. It is like his country's hockey is drowning.

Pakistan player Faisal Ali is sent airborne after colliding with the Dutch goalkeeper during the final of the Hockey World Cup in 1994, when Pakistan won the last of their four titles. Tim Clayton/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

'Last nail in the coffin'

There is no doubt in the minds of former players where the fault lies.

Former goalkeeper Salman Akbar calls the FIH suspension from the Pro League "a full stop to the sentence that hockey administration has been in Pakistan." Akbar, whose 250 caps for Pakistan include the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, says, "These events were expected with the way things were happening for the last few years. This is just a continuity of that, and this [withdrawal] is kind of the last nail in the coffin."

The FIH's home-and-away Pro League, launched in 2017, was initially supposed to see Scotland host the home games for Pakistan, before those matches were shifted and redistributed between Argentina, Belgium, England, Germany and the Netherlands. With expected costs of 30,000,000 Pakistan rupees (approx. $650,000), ESPN understands the PHF was always going to find it difficult to fund their travel and accommodation for the six-month-long league.

Pakistan's most-capped player Waseem Ahmed, whose 410 appearances are bettered only by three others in men's hockey, slammed the PHF for their "incompetence" and "mismanagement".

"They have received funds in the past, but haven't utilised it properly, nor planned how to get sponsors on board on a regular basis. Before every big tournament, they start talking about shortage of funds and asking the government to intervene. How have they never learnt how to manage their finances properly? This mismanagement is down to the federation."

According to Waseem, finances were never a problem during his playing time (1996-2013), when Pakistan could send junior teams on Europe tours "four or five times a year" while the senior team had even more exposure tours.

Akbar agrees with that assessment.

"Events like World Cup, Asian Games, Pro League aren't announced overnight, and you have to budget for them," he said. "Domestic structure and job security for the players is just not in place. There's no system or platform for players to go from U-16, U-18, U-21 to senior team. It's all musical chairs -- the same faces resign and return."

Salman Akbar (second from left) and other Pakistan players celebrate the team's win over India to win bronze at the Champions Trophy in Lahore in December 2004. ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images

'Why should anyone in Pakistan take up hockey?'

Former players agree that the worst sufferers of the withdrawal are the current crop. Pakistan had named a new-look 26-member squad for the Pro League, with 12 players yet to earn an international cap, and nine teenagers. The oldest member of the Pro League squad was goalkeeper Ali Haider, 24. Midfielder Ali Shan was to lead the team, coached by 1994 World Cup-winning coach Saeed Khan.

"I think we should learn a lesson from India and imbibe how they have improved steadily," says Abbasi, whose international career ran almost parallel to Sardar Singh, who retired in 2018.

While Sardar has a steady job as deputy superintendent with the Haryana Police and was one of the highest-paid players in the Hockey India League, Abbasi doesn't have a job to go back to since his last international in 2016, and now lives in relative anonymity in Rawalpindi.

"Something good is being done for hockey in India -- players are given more prominence, and we in Pakistan are so happy for them. In Pakistan, all departmental hockey is dying out.

"I have played three Olympics, scored 200 goals in nearly 400 matches, but I am jobless. How do I tell an aspiring player to take up hockey then?"

India and Pakistan players enter the pitch for the men's gold medal match of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Who can solve this crisis?

The financial freeze for the PHF, it is understood, comes on the back of a lapsed release of funds from the previous government. The current government under Imran, which came to power in August 2018, has opened an audit on previous payments.

Pakistan stood to gain much from participation in the Pro League, with ranking points on offer. There was every likelihood that even a last-place finish would send them into the top 10 of the world. The possibility of sanctions now places question marks over their Olympic qualification, which the team also missed out on for Rio 2016.

Akbar appeals to Imran himself because "he has been a sportsperson himself... our hockey administration needs to rid itself of ex-Olympians. I personally feel they should be banned from all hockey activities, and replaced by professionals from the corporate sector," says Akbar. He traces the poor administration of the sport to over a decade ago, from when ex-hockey players took over administrative duties, starting in 2005 with the replacement of General Aziz Khan as the PHF president.

Aziz's era as president, Akbar says, had led to the appointment of Dutchman Roelant Oltmans as the country's first foreign coach along with a stable domestic structure that consistently churned out good players. During that time, Lahore also hosted the Champions Trophy

Abbasi is more scathing when asked about the way forward, especially if the FIH sanctions come through.

"Our prime minister, who has been a successful sportsperson himself, needs to intervene, because hockey is our national sport and our national identity. Hockey is as valuable to us as our national monuments and other symbols of Pakistan," he says.

"These officials should step aside themselves, because they keep talking about saving hockey and they themselves are responsible for the situation the game is in today."

Otherwise, the light at the end of the tunnel will remain painfully far for Pakistan hockey.

(With inputs from Umar Farooq in Pakistan)

ESPN, India

UniKL in with a chance for the title


KUALA LUMPUR: University Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) are in with a chance to take top spot in the Malaysia Hockey League from current leaders TNB if they manage to get the better of Maybank this Friday.

After five matches, Arul Selvaraj’s charges are currently second in the league with 13 points, just two points behind current league leaders TNB, who also have a game in hand.

With TNB not playing this Friday, UniKL now have the chance to ascend to the top of the league provided they can defeat Maybank.

However, 28-year-old Dutch midfielder Robbert Kemperman said that their main focus is to make less mistakes early on in games which has seen them being punished when they do before this.

"I have to admit that we are always slow especially in the first quarter of a match. But after that usually we are able to find our rhythm and bounce back by scoring the winning goal.

"Actually we can just about defeat anybody but what’s important is to remain focused in each and every match,” he said.

Another of the team’s foreign imports, 30-year-old Australian Kieran Govers, also admitted that he and his fellow teammates need to avoid making unnecessary mistakes early on during matches.

"It is true, we are always slow to begin with and it’s not something that we want.

"For the encounter against Maybank we will need to turn up the tempo early in the match because our opponents are not an easy side to go up against,” Govers said.

New Straits Times

Brilliant Brown wins English indoor crown with EG

By John Flack.

Chloe Brown on Sunday

These are exciting times for former Ards striker Chloe Brown, who picked up a national title with East Grinstead on Sunday just 72 hours after being recalled to the Ireland squad.

The 24-year-old was a member of the Sussex outfit’s indoor team which lifted the Super Sixes English title on Sunday in London.

East Grinstead crushed Buckingham 10-2 in the final watched by 5,000 spectators and a live online television audience.

Brown played virtually the entire 40 minutes after earlier helping her new club beat the holders Bowden-Hightown in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals.

On the same day as Brown was celebrating her first winner’s medal with East Grinstead, Ards’ seven year success run in the Irish indoor championship came to an end with a 6-1 loss to Railway Union in the final.

Brown played a significant role in her former club’s previous triumphs and scored more than 50 goals in six European Championships.

Now though, she can’t wait to play for East Grinstead on the continent next year while Ards will be staying at home with Railway taking their place.

Brown said: “I am loving life in England and I was delighted to be a part of the squad for the Super Sixes and I am now looking forward to playing in Europe next year with the club.”

“We had been working very hard in order to prepare fully for the finals day and we knew our semi-final would probably turn out to be our toughest match.”

This week, Brown will be joining up with the Ireland squad for the first time in more than a year, after missing out even on the 29-strong World Cup training panel ahead of the trip to London.

Ireland travel to Spain for three games against their hosts and two against India, both of whom they beat on the way to clinching the silver medals on their remarkable journey last August.

The games in Spain are part of the preparations for the upcoming Olympic qualifying cycle for Tokyo 2020.

Brown will be doing all she can to grasp the opportunity, having yet to play in a major tournament for Ireland, despite winning 53 caps to date.

She added: “I’m looking forward to coming back into the national squad as I have been working very hard on becoming a better all round player and this is one of the main reasons why I decided to go and play in England.”

“It will be strange being back but ultimately its an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future.”

The Hook

FIH signs deal with ESPN for South and Central America

Lausanne, Switzerland: The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has signed a 4-year media rights agreement with ESPN (2019-2022) for the territories of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The deal follows a successful 2018 cooperation with ESPN which broadcasted the Men and Women World Cups.

The agreement includes all home and away matches of both Argentina’s teams, Men and Women, in the FIH Pro League as well as the 2022 Men and Women World Cups and the Olympic and World Cup qualifiers.

FIH CEO Thierry Weil said: “FIH is delighted to have signed a 4-year deal with such a strong partner as ESPN. This will help us extend the exposure of our sport in a very large region of the world which includes, amongst others, one of the powerhouses of international hockey, Argentina.”

"Our involvement in this new international hockey initiative emphasizes our constant commitment to offer first class sports content”, stated Federico Reyna, Sr. Director Programming, Acquisitions & Digital SSLA. “We have many years of experience in hockey transmissions; therefore, we are proud to be part of this ambitious effort called Pro League”.

FIH site

Georgia Nanscawen: More hockey players will be lured by AFLW

The Kangaroos’ recruit is the second former Hockeyroo to join the AFLW and she believes more are likely to follow

Jack Banister

Georgia Nanscawen became disillusioned with hockey but has been given a new lease of life in the AFLW. Photograph: Jack Banister

Georgia Nanscawen was 16 when she found out she was going to become a Hockeyroo. She was riding the tram from Olympic Park into Melbourne Central to meet her mum, Kerryn, when the email landed, and her hands started shaking. She recalls getting off the tram, spotting her mum, racing across the road, and bursting into tears.

“Mum still says that I nearly got hit by multiple cars,” Nanscawen, now 26, says with a wry smile. She debuted the day after she turned 17, and became an Olympian in 2012, aged 20. Her curly red hair made her hard to miss as her powerful 160 centimetre frame bustled around the forward line. She played 205 international matches over the next eight years.

This weekend, when the Hockeyroos take on Holland and Belgium in Melbourne to begin their campaign in the International Hockey Federation’s new Pro League competition, Nanscawen will be in Hobart at the dawn of a whole new sporting life. She signed with North Melbourne to play Australian rules football in May 2018, and is hoping for the chance at another debut performance when her new club plays its first AFLW match against Carlton in Tasmania.

As a girl, Nanscawen loved her footy. She used to practise taking speckies over her dad, Peter, by throwing a balloon over his head in the family living room. “I think he’s got back problems now,” she says, laughing. But like many girls of her era, Nanscawen had no football pathway to follow. Now, she’s hoping that women’s footy can give her “a new lease on sport”.

Her mum’s sport of choice was hockey, so Nanscawen had a stick in her hand before she could waddle. She soon joined the Essendon Hockey Club, and by the time she was nine, her dream was to play for Australia. She pauses to impersonate her younger, whinier self, for added effect - “I wanna play for Australia.”

Nanscawen’s road to North Melbourne began when she took a hiatus from hockey in late 2017. Her decision was quickly noticed at Arden Street. Laura Kane, North’s football operations manager, went to school with Nanscawen at University High.

Unbeknown to North, Nanscawen had already decided to play football at Swan Districts in the WA Women’s Football League. When the message from AFLW list manager Rhys Harwood reached Nanscawen, asking if she was interested in playing footy, her response was simple: “Well … as a matter of fact, I am!”

North’s invitation arrived at the perfect moment. Eight years in the Hockeyroos’ high-pressure environment had taken a toll on Nanscawen. Her mind was open to fresh possibilities.

There had been highs. In fact, 2014 was one long high, where the Hockeyroos won silver at the World Cup in The Hague, gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and silver at the Champions Trophy in Mendoza. The three medals now hang in a frame on Nanscawen’s wall, alongside her Hockeyroos bodysuit.

Georgia Nanscawen in action for the Hockeyroos in 2016. Photograph: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Then there was the low – missing the final squad of 16 for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Nanscawen was on song at the end of 2015, and received glowing feedback from her coaches after the season-ending World League Finals tournament in Argentina. When training resumed, she found she’d gone from the first-picked to the fringes without playing another match.

“We came back after Christmas and went to Singapore for a four-nations tournament, and before even playing, I was on the outer again,” she says. Nanscawen played one game in the four-match tournament. “I was like – what has happened? And that shot my confidence.”

Her fate was sealed when she failed to score a goal in the final Olympic lead-up event, the Champions Trophy in London. Nanscawen went to Rio as one of the three reserve players, who had to stay in a hotel rather than in the athletes’ village. “That in itself was this whole emotional journey, because you still have the potential to play right up until the last game … but you know you’re not fully a part of it,” she says.

The Hockeyroos were knocked out in the quarter-finals, and a new coaching panel came in to lead the team towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Nanscawen was still adamant she was going to try and “go around again”.

The new crew shifted her to the backline, and the initial feedback she received wasn’t great. “I was feeling pretty down about it, and I think that was the real spark. It made me think, ‘Am I really enjoying doing this?’” she says.

Upon reflection, Nanscawen knows that positive feedback wouldn’t have changed her underlying feelings. “I’d wake up on a day of training and not feel any of that excitement that I used to. I was like, ‘Why are you doing it if you’re not excited?’ That’s why you play sport,” she says.

When Nanscawen formally announced her retirement from international hockey and signed with North, she became the second former Hockeyroo to join the AFLW. Georgie Parker was the first when she joined Collingwood for the 2018 season. Asked if she expects footy to pull more current and future athletes away from hockey, Nanscawen answers simply.

“I think so,” she says. “In hockey, we were lucky, and we were funded quite well. But I know a lot of the other Olympic sports aren’t.” She points out the raw numbers – over 300 women can play AFLW, but there can only be 16 Hockeyroos. “You’ve just got better odds.”

The biggest challenge thus far for Nanscawen at North has been fine-tuning her skills, especially under pressure. The Kangaroos plan to use her on a half-forward flank. “Every session is scary because you’re very much out of your comfort zone,” she says.

It goes without saying that Nanscawen is competitive, and wants to succeed in AFLW, but in a way, her change of codes has already been a success. “It’s been a challenge, but that’s what I enjoy … it’s been good fun, and it’s been that refreshing change that I needed.”

The Guardian

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