Clubs feel Oz venture may disrupt local league

Leading hockey clubs have welcomed the recent Memorandum of Understanding between Singapore and Australia - which is aimed at accelerating the development of the nation's junior hockey players.

But the fraternity has also expressed concern over some aspects of the arrangement, particularly the Singapore Hockey Federation's (SHF) intention to enter the national junior teams - especially the Under-18s - in an Australian national championship. They are worried that such a move could prove disruptive to the local league.

Kanan Packrisamy, head coach of Singapore Cricket Club (SCC), said: "The arrangement is an exciting prospect for the younger players in Singapore.

"But the Australian league schedule lies in the same period as the National Hockey League here... (If) clubs start to postpone their matches, (it) could disrupt our league momentum."

Others, meanwhile, wondered why the SHF did not look for a competition closer to home.

Lawrence Lee, men's hockey convener at Singapore Recreation Club (SRC), said: "Malaysia is only a short distance away and competing in their league will save cost and time for the federation and the players.

"The playing standard of the Malaysians is higher than ours and we have much to learn from them."

Sheik Abdul Kader, owner of Dreams Hockey, also questioned the wisdom of playing in a league of a far superior level.

"The national men's team were already getting hammered 7-0 and defeated by the Under-21 Malaysian side. Why are we competing in the league of the world No. 1 (Australia) when world No. 12 (Malaysia) is just beside us?

"Malaysia's younger age groups would provide good and realistic competition for our age-group teams and we will also be able to save on costs.

"But, more importantly, we have to start preparing our players now for the league next year so that the players will be ready to compete at a higher level. Our local coaches should also be able to learn from the Australian coaches, be it in Australia or in Singapore."

However, SHF president Mathavan Devadas gave the assurance that the league will be planned in advance to ensure that the competition schedules do not clash.

He explained: "We'll have these schedules planned six to eight months in advance. It will be challenging but we are working on having the participation in the Australian league after the National Hockey League, which will be held from March to July, or around it."

Noting that Singapore already sends teams to compete in some Malaysian events such as the Milo Cup, he said: "Malaysia is always open towards having us participate in their age-group tournaments and we do not need an MOU to participate.

"But Australia provides a higher level of competition and I can only see good things from it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'Clubs feel Oz venture may disrupt local league'. Print Edition | Subscribe