Hockey: New 3v3 league offers reprieve after NSG halt

Tanya Lee of Oldham B (front) during the Under-19 3v3 Hockey League match against Oldham D on Jan 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) hockey player Tanya Lee was mentally prepared for another quiet season this year after her sport was left out of the National School Games (NSG) calendar.

The pandemic had already led to the cancellation of the NSG last year and Tanya was looking at a second straight missed opportunity to compete in the Schools National A Division Championships.

But she and her fellow student athletes have earned a reprieve thanks to the newly-launched Under-19 3v3 Hockey League organised by the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF). It began on Saturday (Jan 30) with 28 teams (16 girls and 12 boys).

Tanya's Oldham B team beat Oldham D 9-6, with the 18-year-old scoring seven goals, at Sengkang Hockey Stadium.

While pleased to be back on the pitch and with the win, she said the sense of camaraderie was unusual.

"Usually, we get to train together as a whole team and we prepare for matches together and go for team dinners together. These are the things that create good memories you can look back on next time," said Tanya, who has been playing hockey since 2016.

"Now I only see fewer than 10 of them during a match and it's just different."

Hockey and other team sports were not included in this year's NSG though the Ministry of Education had said last December it is "working on how these sports can resume safely" this year.

The NSG was later postponed from its original February start date after a rise in the number of community cases.

SHF started the 3v3 competition, held behind closed doors, to provide some playing opportunities after the current safe-distancing guidelines allow eight people in a group.

Each match is played in a square one-eighth the size of a regular hockey pitch and consists of three 10-minute periods with two five-minute breaks in between. Players can shoot at two goals and each team has one substitute player.

In one of 10 other matches on Saturday, Crescent Hockey B beat Oldham A 10-5, with Crescent's Jolene Lim scoring six goals.

Her feat came as a pleasant surprise for the defender who rarely scores in the traditional 11-a-side version.

Crescent Hockey B's Jolene Lim (left) scored six goals in the 10-5 win against Oldham A. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The 17-year-old praised the new format and said it presented different challenges and allowed her to work on different aspects of her game.

"In the 11-a-side game, you get the catch your breath more and it's a much slower pace. This format is very intense and you really need to practise your individual ball skills a lot because there are a lot of 1v1 or 2v1 scenarios," said the Victoria Junior College student.

"You also have to work on your mental strength and learn to pace yourself. It also teaches you to be a more all-rounded player since there are no positions so everyone has to do everything."

The 3v3 league resumes on Sunday. The girls and boys divisions are split into two groups and played under a round robin format. The top two in each group advance into the semi-finals with the finals to be held in March.

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