Top hockey teams here to size each other up

Australia forward Emily Smith, 23, guiding the girls from the TPG Academy Development Squad in a clinic held by the world No. 3 Hockeyroos ahead of the TPG International Tri-Series hockey tournament next week. The top-ranked Dutch and world No. 9 Ger
Australia forward Emily Smith, 23, guiding the girls from the TPG Academy Development Squad in a clinic held by the world No. 3 Hockeyroos ahead of the TPG International Tri-Series hockey tournament next week. The top-ranked Dutch and world No. 9 Germany will also feature in Sengkang.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The tropical weather that is similar to Brazil's and a chance to spar with the top teams in the world have attracted three of the best women's hockey nations to compete in Singapore for the inaugural The Project Group (TPG) International Tri-Series title.

The response is such that Paul Lim, TPG's chief executive and the brainchild behind the series, had to turn down the South Koreans after he had got 2012 Olympic champions and world No. 1 Netherlands, No. 3 Australia and No. 9 Germany on board for the six-day event which starts next Monday.

The event will be a chance for the teams to gauge their rivals' strengths as well as to fine-tune their preparations ahead of August's Rio Olympics.

Stating his intention to "start small", the former national hockey goalkeeper said yesterday: "They (South Korea) wanted me to invite them as the fourth team, but I didn't want to go into a so-called major tournament right away."

The Dutch, Australian and German teams have arrived in Singapore for this round-robin tournament, where they will play each other twice at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium. Entry is free.

Two years ago, talks between the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) and TPG, a property and construction consultancy, over a sponsorship deal collapsed. Lim went on to sponsor Australia's men's and women's teams last year.

But the 34-year-old hopes that the International Tri-Series will help to boost the game locally, saying: "We hope that this showcase tournament will inspire the younger generation to come in and play."

Similarly optimistic of how the Singapore national teams can benefit from the tournament, Australia captain Madonna Blyth said: "For their girls to learn, to see the things we do day and in day out, to see international hockey with good teams - I guess that will be able to help inspire them."

The Hockeyroos conducted their first clinic yesterday evening in Sengkang with the TPG Academy's elite side, who consist of national players as well as girls from the academy's development squad.

Blyth, the Hockeyroos' most capped player of all time with 316 appearances, added: "The main thing is to give everyone in the squad a couple of matches... and push for their chance for Olympic selection."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Top hockey teams here to size each other up'. Print Edition | Subscribe