SINGAPORE - The national women's hockey team will compete at the June 8-16 International Hockey Federation (FIH) Hockey Series Finals in Dublin, Ireland after Austria withdrew from the tournament.
The Hockey Series is open to all countries that are not in the Hockey Pro League, and gives developing hockey-playing nations the chance to qualify for events such as the Olympic Games or Hockey World Cup.
A string of Hockey Series Open tournaments were held from June to December last year, where the two top teams from each leg would make it to one of three Finals. The other two women's Finals are in Japan (June 15-23) and Spain (June 19-27).
The men's finals are hosted by Malaysia (April 23-May 1), India (June 6-16) and France (June 15-23).
The top two teams from each Finals will then qualify for the FIH Olympic Qualification Event later in 2019.
At the Hockey Series Open in Singapore last July, the national women's team finished third and missed out on qualifying for the Finals, but were first reserves. The men's team qualified for the Finals after winning the Hockey Series Open, and will compete in France.
Singapore Hockey Federation president Mathavan Devadas told The Straits Times the federation has not set any targets yet, but hopes both national teams can improve their world ranking by at least five places. The women's tea m is ranked 35th while the men are 40th.
"(The players are) doing some initial preparation and playing some friendly matches because they know the quality (of the opposition)... we don't have that level of competition here in Singapore so within the next couple of months we'll know where we stand and set realistic targets for the teams," said Mathavan, adding that a series of trips and matches have been scheduled over the next few months.
The women's team will travel to Thailand for test matches next month, and two South Korean teams will visit Singapore to spar with Singapore's men and women. Both teams will then go to Perth for a training camp in May before the Hockey Series Finals.
National women's coach David Viner noted that of the seven other teams in the Singapore women's group, five are ranked within or near the top 20 and below - Ireland (World No. 8), Korea (No. 11), Scotland (No. 18), Czech Republic (No. 19) and Malaysia (No. 22). The other two women's teams in Singapore's group are world No. 27 Ukraine and 32nd-ranked France.
He added: "Our focus now is to prepare our squad to be as competitive as possible. Many of the teams around the top 20 in the world and below... are operating full-time or very close to full-time squads.
"Singapore are very much a team of hard-working students or employed professionals. But each player puts in a remarkable amount of time and commitment in order to represent their country in hockey."