Imagine running across soft turf while guiding a plastic ball with a curved stick, dodging defenders and aiming for the goal. How exciting is that? Paul Lim aims to show us. The former national player from Queensland and CEO of The Project Group (TPG) saw how the sport of field hockey is dwindling in schools, losing about two school teams a year, and decided to chip in – by bringing together some of the world’s top ranking women’s hockey teams for a furious tri-corner tournament, and letting the public sit in, for free. From January 18th to 23rd, at 7pm, you can catch the matches going on between world elites Netherlands, Australia and Germany at Sengkang Hockey Stadium.
Paul is not the only one invested in the rejuvenation of the sport locally. The Australian Hockeyroos are also pleased to “support Paul’s dream in giving back to Singapore hockey”, according to the team’s captain, Madonna Blyth.
Although the matches are essentially to raise the profile of the sport, they are not friendly matches. “We aim to win,” said Rachael Lynch, Hockeyroos goalie, with a gleam in her eye.
There are several underrated aspects of the sport, Madonna related, including the amount of speed, fitness, and technical skill that are required at the same time. Certainly the highlights from their previous matches showed movements quicker than the eye!
Despite their world #3 placing, the Hockeyroos are not ones to rest on their laurels. They aim to use these matches to hone their skills and climb to #1. After all, they’re going to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics in August. Analysing their opponents live, as well as in recordings, is par for the course.
These professionals motivate by teaching, as well as by their games. Members of the Australian team, who are also TPG Academy Ambassadors, hope to eventually hold monthly clinics to train local players at both the school and national levels. Singaporean players who are part of TPG Academy report how excited they are to be training with their “superstars”.
With consistent exposure to the elite, Paul hopes to inspire interest in the sport among youth. In Rachael’s view, the national team could raise their game from Bronze in the 2015 SEA Games, aiming for the TPG tournament in the long term. The interaction with Australia has been two-way, as members of the Singapore team also visited the Australian team at Perth, and learned the minutiae of their lives, from their training and work schedules down to what they eat!
At the end of the interviews, the field sprinklers came on, sending out jets of spray and journalists heading for cover. The coaches and their students jogged around the wet field, hopped across rows of sticks, or passed balls back and forth. Goalies tested their kungfu reflexes in heavy padding. It looked like hard work taken seriously. If you’d like to support this sport and the local athletes who enjoy it, head down to Sengkang Hockey Stadium on the days of 18th to 23rd January, and you might find yourself in the company of Dutch fans, cheering for a surprisingly intense game of field hockey.