New women's hockey coach Viner's target is to push Malaysia in 2017
The Republic's hockey men came so close to ending Malaysia's 42-year stranglehold on the South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal in June, with a penalty shoot-out required to separate the sides after a 2-2 draw in the final at the Sengkang Stadium.
Admittedly, the Malaysians were represented by an Under-20 side, but it was the closest Singapore's men have come to gold since edging out the Malaysians at the 1973 Games, which the Republic also hosted.
New women's national coach, David Viner, believes that by the next Games in Kuala Lumupur in 2017, his charges will be able to emulate the men and go the distance against the regional powerhouses - Malaysia have won the last two editions of the biennial contest.
Malaysia took gold here in June after beating Thailand and the hosts defeated Indonesia in the battle for third place.
Belief is the simple but critical starting point in Viner's blueprint.
"You must be willing to give it a go because if you don't, you will never know - that comes from my Australian background.
"I believe that in two years, we can make the improvements that we need to and be competitive with Malaysia in the gold-medal match of the SEA Games. That is the target," the 58-year-old Aussie told The New Paper yesterday.
Viner starts his two-year term as head coach of the Singapore women's national team today and he will also play a role in youth development here.
His side are No. 44 in the world, the Thais are joint-37th while the region's best team, Malaysia, are in 21st spot in the 67-nation International Hockey Federation (FIH) rankings.
Malaysian Sunil Prasad, who led the women to the SEA Games bronze in June, will end his stint with the SHF on Sept 30.
He will lead the U-21 team at the Asian Hockey Federation's Women's Junior Asia Cup from Sept 5 to 13 in Changzhou, China.
Drawn in Pool A of the nine-nation contest, the U-21s will face India, Malaysia, North Korea and the hosts, and Viner will be there as an observer. Up for grabs are three spots in the FIH Junior World Cup in Chile next year.
Over the years, several foreign coaches in various sports have landed in Singapore and promised much, only to fail, but Viner believes his experiences in England, Belgium, France as well as his native Australia, have equipped him to achieve his big target in 2017.
"I'm a coach of evolution, not revolution. You can't just come in to a place, sweep everything clean and do what you think will work. There are cultural differences, even between clubs in the same league.
"And you've got to know them, understand them, before you change," he said, also pointing to the successes he's had in the past in turning teams around.
"When I was in Belgium with Royal Uccle, they were in the second division and within a year we went up to the Premier League; and this year (Western Australian League side) the Suburban Lions, we were top of our league and the team are now in the play-offs for promotion."
Viner was present at Sengkang to take in some of the SEA Games encounters in June and already has an idea of what the Singapore women's team require.
"There are four key factors to a sporting performance: mental, physical, tactical and technical, and having watched the girls, the weakness is the intensity to sustain (those factors) under pressure and while fatigued," he said.
He will be focused on small milestones in performance.
"I like to focus on things we can control. I'm a performance-based coach. It doesn't matter if you don't win every game - that's just the nature of sports - but if you focus on processes, the results will take care of themselves," said Viner.
"But first, to get there, you must believe."