Hockey women ready to surprise at World League tourney
Aussie coach Viner has worked on sharpness in attack and team are confident ahead of WL
They have flown under the radar since the South-east Asia (SEA) Games ended last June, but the Republic's hockey women claim they are ready for the World League (WL) Round 1 (April 9-17) which kicks off this weekend at the Sengkang Stadium - and they could well surprise.
National coach David Viner, who took charge in October last year, has put in action a blueprint aimed at helping the hockey women evolve and they have already seen some results, with the girls scoring goals for fun now - banging in as many as 22 in a friendly game against the Hollandse Club, a team made up of Dutch nationals based in Singapore.
Viner did not want to reveal exactly how many goals his charges have scored in the nine warm-up fixtures they have played in the lead up to the WL, and the Aussie also refused to get carried away with the performances.
"We've been scoring more goals than Singapore teams have in the past, and I've been told that we're playing a slightly different style, but whether they can define that difference, I don't know," said Viner, speaking on the sidelines of a sponsorship ceremony between the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) and Dreamatron yesterday. "And no, why would I put a number on it (goals), give our opponents information and put pressure on the girls?"
"I've got no expectations for the WL, 50 per cent of our team are girls from the (national) Under-21 team, while the other 50 per cent are from the SEA Games squad," the coach added, pointing to a slew of retirements that he's had to deal with.
"We've focused on ball movement and player movement... And being more mobile and not taking backward steps on the field.
"It took a bit of work to convince them that going forward is the way forward."
And positivity is growing from within the team.
"The friendly games have built confidence in the team, that's what they've done. There are still some mixed feelings in the team, but I'm very positive about the WL," said midfielder Syasya Rifqah.
"We used to be a defensive team, but we're more focused on attack now."
"Also, we used to be given strict instructions in training, but he (Viner) gives us freedom to express ourselves," added Nurul Sofia Atikah, who has been in the national side since 2012.
"There is a positive energy about the team and it's what keeps us going and we're positive that we will be able to do the same (as we did in the friendly games) at the WL."
The women line up against Sri Lanka at 8pm on Saturday at Sengkang, but they are looking forward to next Wednesday's clash against rivals Thailand, who will give them a gauge of how far they've come.
At last year's SEA Games on home soil, the Malaysian women won gold, with the Thais finishing second and the hosts collecting the bronze medal.
"Usually the difference in standard between us and Thailand isn't very big and we lost 1-0 to them at the SEA Games. We're really looking forward to taking them on again," said Syasya.
"We don't have a target, but we're focused on process goals."
Dreamatron director Darren Chua seems perfectly aligned with the girls.
After inking a two-year deal worth $35,000 to kit out the national hockey men and women, Chua said: "Getting involved with hockey is a milestone for us, we're moving onto the next level.
"We're about realisation of sporting dreams... For Singapore, Singapore dreams and Singapore pride."
WORLD LEAGUE FIXTURES
- v Sri Lanka, Saturday, 8pm
- v Hong Kong, next Monday, 8pm
- v Thailand, Wednesday, 8pm
- v Cambodia, Thursday, 5.30pm
- v Brunei, Friday, 7.30pm