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News for 19 February 2021

All the news for Friday 19 February 2021

Getting our Black Sticks ready for a “very different Olympics”

After decades in rugby, Tony Hanks has swapped the oval ball for a stick and ball. Our new High Performance Director tells us about dealing with uncertainty in a Covid-world, handling the oppressive heat in Tokyo, and the drive to do something only one Black Sticks team has ever done.

You joined Hockey NZ in September in an interim capacity but have now signed on until the Tokyo Olympics. What are you enjoying about the role and what have you learned?

I’m really enjoying the people. There’s some great people in hockey, and there’s a really good skillset across the sport – skills that people probably don’t even think they’ve got.

I’ve been really impressed with the speed of the game and the talent, and I really enjoyed the Sentinel Homes Premier Hockey League.  

It’s been a pretty steep learning curve for me in terms of how sports like hockey are integrated with High Performance Sport NZ unlike rugby which is a bit more self-contained.

With no hockey experience I suppose I bring a totally fresh perspective to the role.

You’ve worked in rugby in the UK, Japan, Russia and in New Zealand for some of the biggest brands in the game – London Wasps, Waikato, Chiefs and the Blues. What are the main differences between rugby and hockey?

I suppose being an Olympic sport and being part of a wider Olympic community is the main difference. With hockey a lot of its exposure is around the pinnacle events of Olympics and Commonwealth Games, but that’s starting to expand with the new FIH Pro League.  

Hockey is also still working through the transition from amateur to semi-professional, where you’re trying to manage the fact that even at the top level it’s not fully professional and athletes have jobs, so trying to get that balance right is critical.

With no international hockey for the bulk of 2020, how tough was last year for the Black Sticks?

It was difficult on lots of levels especially with the Covid disruption occurring so close to a pinnacle event which people had made such a commitment to. The early decision to postpone the Olympics and the fact we could retain our High Performance Sport NZ funding was a great help. Everyone worked hard to make the most of the situation and there’s now a real excitement after having nothing for most of 2020, and a recognition of how lucky we are.

The Vantage Black Sticks’ schedule for 2021 has three options – 1) purely domestic, 2) within a potential trans-Tasman bubble or 3) with open borders.  How do you help the players prepare for that uncertainty?

The three options are constantly changing from when they were first presented to the players late last year. We try to keep the players informed as much as we can, directly and with the assistance of the Players Association, so they’re aware of the plans and able to adapt as things change. Having the players as part of those planning conversations is really important.

There’s also lots of rumours flying around and it’s vital that we quickly address those as being either fact or speculation.

Everyone is talking about the heat in Japan. How hot will it be and how do you help the players cope?

I have worked a lot in Japan over the past three years with Honda Heat Rugby and we commonly held pre-season rugby camps in the 30s. The humidity is pretty oppressive and I remember a game between the Blues and the Sunwolves where it was 44 degrees on field.  

It gives you an appreciation of not just what it does to you physically but what it does to you mentally.

Hockey is quite fortunate in that a lot of our players have experienced heat in the likes of Malaysia so it’s not completely foreign. We’re working through a number of coping strategies such as using heat chambers and simply wearing more clothing at training to create that discomfort.

We’re trying some scientific and not so scientific techniques to see what works. We have embraced the fact it’s going to be hot, and everyone knows that teams that handle the heat well will enhance their chances of being successful.

New Zealand has just one Olympic medal – the men’s gold in 1976. Are we medal contenders in 2021?

What I’ve been really impressed with from both our teams is the level of passion, intent and ambition. For some sports, getting to the Olympics is the goal, but we’ve qualified and now we’re hugely motivated to do really well, and making the podium is a massive driver for us.  

There’s a real drive to be successful and do something that only one Black Sticks team has ever done at an Olympics. We are focused on making sure we nail our preparation while making sure our player wellbeing is well supported during these uncertain times.

Tokyo will be a very different Olympics and one that people will talk about for a long time – like the 1936 and 1980 games. My hope is that they’ll be talking about it in a positive light – about how the world came through Covid and we were able to have this fantastic event.

Hockey New Zealand Media release

East Grinstead's EuroHockey Club Trophy Campaign On Hold

It was a moment of sheer elation for the East Grinstead women’s team when they qualified for the EuroHockey Club Trophy to be held in Boom, Belgium.

It is the ambition of every player in the top flight of the England Hockey League to compete against some of the best club sides in Europe and, by finishing in second place in the domestic league in the 2019-20 season, East Grinstead were EuroHockey-bound.

The event was due to take place over the Easter 2021 period but, at the beginning of February, the announcement came from the European Hockey Federation (EHF) that the tournament was to be postponed until autumn, due to the on-going restrictions of the global pandemic.

The postponement was extended to most competitions organised by the EHF this springtime. The EuroHockey Trophy 1 Men; EuroHockey Club Trophy II, Men; and EuroHockey Club Challenge I, Women; have all been postponed to September or October, with the U14 EuroHockey League for both boys and girls has been cancelled entirely.

Mary Booth is Head Coach of East Grinstead, and she said: “We were not surprised by the decision to postpone until September/October. There are implications for us, most obviously around personnel. For example, the Great Britain players may well be resting if the Tokyo Olympic Games go ahead.

“It is also the case that players may move on, new players may join so we will have to begin preparations early while accepting that our squad may well be different to how it looks currently when it comes to September. It will be a challenge but it will probably be the same for everyone.”

Looking on the positive side, Booth adds that the fact that East Grinstead is a relatively small squad and has four Great Britain players in its ranks – who may all be rested after the Olympics – means younger members of the squad could get the invaluable opportunity to experience European club hockey, which will be great for their personal development, as well as for the team as a whole.

Booth says the squad will try to get game play over the summer months and the club is already in discussions with other clubs to see how that could work.

“Let’s say it will be a challenge but it will be one that we relish,” says the Head Coach.

EHF President, Marijke Fleuren, explained that the safety of all participants, volunteers and fans was at the heart of the decision. in a brighter vein, she added: “However, as 2021 goes on we are still hopeful to deliver, along with our hosts, as many EuroHockey events as possible.
“As you can see, we have had to make the decision to move our four tournaments planned for Easter to the early part of next season. We understand this may not be ideal but are sure you recognise the challenges the pandemic has thrown us.  Our goal is to provide a meaningful competition calendar and we will continue to engage with Clubs and hosts to ensure this happens as best we can.”

When the tournament is able to go ahead, East Grinstead will be competing in Pool B, facing Gantoise HC from Belgium, GHC Ritm Grodno of Belarus and local favourites Braxgata HC of Belgium. The other pool comprises Spanish club SPV Complutense, Aks Bars-Dinamo of Russia , Lille MHC from France and Irish club Loreto.

England Hockey will continue to provide regular and timely updates on dates and arrangements for the EHF Club competitions.

England Hockey Board Media release

Thunderbolt need MoE's consent

By Jugjet Singh

TNB Thunderbolts want to play in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) but are stuck in a quagmire, and they now need a helping hand from the Ministry of Education (MoE). - Pic courtesy of TNB Thunderbolts

TNB Thunderbolts want to play in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) but are stuck in a quagmire, and they now need a helping hand from the Ministry of Education (MoE).

While the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) have got the green light from the Sports Ministry to host the national league (March 11- April 3), there has been a numbing silence from the MoE.

This is a sticky situation as Thunderbolts, as well as many other MHL teams, have students who need permission from the MoE to compete.

"All my players are from four schools around the country. So, TNB Thunderbolts can't move even an inch without a consent letter from MoE," lamented Thunderbolts coach Nor Saiful Zaini.

The four schools players in the Thunderbolts team are Bandar Penawar Sports School, Bukit Jalil Sports School, SM Temerloh of Pahang and Anderson School of Ipoh.

"In January, before the MHL was postponed, we were in the same situation as the MoE had sent out a letter to the four schools stating 'tidak menggalakkan' (not advisable) to play because of Covid-19.

"All four school principals back then had said they couldn't release their players as the Education Ministry did not encourage sports activities at that juncture.

"And we were ready to comply and pull out from the MHL. Then MCO 2.0 kicked in, and now that MHC have decided on March, we will need a consent letter from the MoE.

"The TNB (sports club) management has written to the MoE and is waiting for an answer. But if we get another 'tidak menggalakkan' reply, we will have to withdraw from the MHL," said Nor Saiful.

The men's MHL has eight teams while the women's section has six.

Apart from Thunderbolts, others will be hit if the MoE reply in the negative.

The Sabah teams (boys and girls), as well as the MHC development side, Young Tigress, are mainly made up of students.

"We are a development team and if the MoE allow, we will play. But if they don't, we will withdraw because the safety of our players is paramount.

"TNB hopes the MHC and Sports Ministry will help the teams with students to get a positive reply from the MoE," said Nor Saiful.

The MHC plan to use the sports bubble approach which will see about 600 people quarantined in one venue. Their accommodation, food and transport will be paid for.

But the sports bubble is challenging for some players and officials who will be leaving their jobs and families for at least 30 days.

New Straits Times

Weekend College Games: February 19-23

Photo Credit: Saint Louis Athletics, Temple Athletics

Gear up for some college field hockey match-ups this weekend!

Friday, February 19, 2021
DI: Saint Joseph's vs. Connecticut | 12:00 p.m. ET | Canceled
DI: Hofstra vs. Drexel | 2:00 p.m. ET | Canceled
DII: Queens vs. Belmont Abbey | 3:00 p.m. ET | QSN

Queens is set to host in-state and cross town team Belmont Abbey in Charlotte, N.C. for a South Atlantic Conference Carolinas (SAC/CC) game this Friday.

This match will be the Royals season opener. Belmont Abbey already has a SAC/CC win, after they hosted and defeated Mount Olive, 3-0, on February 9.

The last time these teams played was November 2019, where Queens came out on top 4-2. They have meet a total of 10 times, with the Royals holding a seven win advantage.
Saturday, February 20, 2021

DI: Old Dominion vs. Temple | 11:00 a.m. ET

Old Dominion will host Temple in Norfolk, Va. this Friday for the first BIG EAST match-up of the 2020v2 season.

The Monarchs have one game under their belts after hosting Virginia Commonwealth on February 14. ODU controlled the flow of the game, racking up 18 shots to the Rams' five, but it was VCU who tallied a goal 8:48 into the first overtime to clinch the win.

Temple also has already played one match, against Hofstra on February 12. Defense was the name of the game, while both teams were held to a combined six shots. The Owls took the lead late in the first quarter on a deflection off a penalty corner, in what was the game winner as it finished 1-0.

Head-to-head, ODU and Temple have met eight times, with the Monarchs winning five. Their last meeting in October 2019, saw ODU claim the 2-1 victory.

DI: Liberty vs. Villanova | 12:00 p.m. ET

Liberty will host in-conference BIG EAST team Villanova in Lynchburg, Va. this Saturday.

The Flames are coming off a 3-1 win over out-of-conference opponent Davidson. Daniella Rhodes had a hand in all three goals, scoring twice (including the game winner) and tallying an assist, and for her performance was named the Play Safe/NFHCA Division I Offensive Player of the Week.

This game will be Villanova's season opener. Liberty is 5-0 all-time against Villanova, including a 4-0 mark when both teams have been in the BIG EAST.
Sunday, February 21, 2021

DI: Connecticut vs. New Hampshire | 1:00 p.m. ET

Following Connecticut's Friday game being canceled, they will host New Hampshire in Storrs, Conn. for an out-of-conference match-up on Sunday.

The Huskies opened their season February 13 with a 5-0 win over out-of-conference Hofstra. It also marked the first career win for new head coach Paul Caddy. Kourtney Kennedy, Play Safe/NFHCA Division I Defensive Player of the Week, led the defensive unit to hold Hofstra to just one shot on goal, while also contributing two goals and an assist.

This game will be New Hampshire's season opener. Of the teams 34 meetings, Connecticut holds the win advantage at 21.

DI: Liberty vs. Villanova | 1:00 p.m. ET

DI: Old Dominion vs. Temple | 4:00 p.m. ET

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

DII: Mount Olive vs. Limestone | 2:00 p.m. ET

Mount Olive will host Limestone Tuesday in Mount Olive, N.C. for their home opener.

The Trojans opened the 2020v2 season with a loss to Conference Carolinas opponent Belmont Abbey. Although the game was deadlocked through the first quarter, Belmont Abbey tallied in the second and added insurance goals twice in the third for the win.

This game will be Limestone's season opener. In their two history meetings, Limestone won both contests, each by a score of 4-0.

DII: Newberry vs. Belmont Abbey | 4:00 p.m. ET

Newberry will welcome SAC/CC Belmont Abbey on Tuesday in Newberry, S.C. Both teams are coming off season opening wins. Newberry defeated Converse, 4-0, and Belmont Abbey topped Mount Olive, 3-0.

Four different players scored for the Wolves, while their defense was outstanding holding Converse to only six shots, two of which were on goal. Belmont Abbey also had three different goal scorers, while Julianna Smith registered her first career solo shutout for the Crusaders.

Head-to-head the teams are matched even at four wins of the total eight. Newberry won the most recent contest in November 2019 by a score of 2-0.

DII: Converse vs. Coker | 5:00 p.m. ET

In Spartanburg, S.C., Converse will host SAC/CC opponent Coker on Tuesday.

Converse fell to Newberry on February 10 in their season opener. The Valkyries were led by Eryn Follett, in her first collegiate game, who registered three shots.

This game will be Coker's season opener. In their all time meeting history, Coker has won all four match-ups.

DI/II: Saint Louis vs. Lindenwood | 3:30 p.m. ET

Photo Credit: Saint Louis Athletics, Temple Athletics

In a cross division match-up, Saint Louis (Division I) and Lindenwood (Division II) will battle at the SportPort International complex in Maryland Heights, Mo. This will be the season opener for both teams in the 2020v2 campaign.

USFHA media release

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