Aussie boost for S'pore hockey
Western Australian government ink two-year deal with SHF; coaching clinics already underway
Australia are the reigning world hockey champions, have come back from the last six consecutive Olympic Games with at least a bronze medal and are perched atop the world rankings.
And the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) is tapping on Aussie know-how in a bid to raise the standard of the game here.
A two-year A$50,000 ($58,000) deal has been signed with the government of Western Australia focusing on three main areas - coaching, umpiring and player development.
Australia is split into six states and Western Australia (WA) is the largest, with Perth its capital city.
"The relationship between Singapore and WA is centred mainly on commerce and education, but we have made a commitment to engage in other areas, like sports and arts," said John Osborn, regional director of the WA government's trade and investment office in Singapore.
"We have made a commitment to work very closely with (officials from the SHF) for two years, in those three areas, based on what Singapore needs to generally improve the standard of hockey."
The programme has already kicked off, with two week-long coaching clinics completed over the last month.
A selection team made up of national players and others from various development squads played six matches against two visiting Australian teams - the Australian Masters and the WA Institute of Sports team.
While the Singapore side lost all six fixtures, national coach Solomon Casoojee believes that the sport will benefit from the programme down the line.
"The sky's the limit with this programme and I'm hoping it'll have a major effect," said Casoojee.
Singapore hockey is ranked 10th in Asia, six spots behind fourth-ranked Malaysia, the only South-east Asian team ranked above the Republic. Singapore are 36th in the world order.
"The direction is clear - using their assistance to educate and up-skill our coaches because if you reach out to one coach, you can get to 30 to 40 kids.
"That's the future of the programme," added the national coach.
Frank Murray who guided the Australian women's team to gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, conducted a course for level two and level three coaches that came to a close last Friday.
He sees much potential here.
"In addition to the coaches, there were some players with first-class skills in a couple of games that I watched and they will certainly be able to hold their own in Perth," said Murray.
"If they can replicate those skills consistently, there will be belief. What we can do is provide that knowledge that will inspire belief and desire.
"We have resources, 30 to 40 years of experience and are happy to share."
Osborn asserts that the programmes will be driven by Singapore, depending on what it needs.
"Western Australia (WA) is the home of Australian national hockey teams, and there is a lot of expertise. And we're doing this not as a payback, but as part of being a good neighbour and helping where we can," he said.
ASSESS THE BENEFITS
"We haven't put benchmarks yet, this is an initial two-year programme and both parties will assess the benefits of the programme at the end of 2015."
Casoojee has already pencilled in the next few clinics that will take place as part of the partnership.
Two more week-long clinics will take place later in the year for level one through to level three coaches, with Murray poised to return.
"We're also looking at the possibility of sending some of our players to WA to get some experience playing there as well," added the South African.