(22 Nov, 2016): Malaysia, fresh from the Asian Champions Trophy campaign, will look to the inaugural International Festival of Hockey from Nov 23-27 at the State Netball & Hockey Centre in Melbourne to chart their progress for the upcoming World League Round 2.
Australia’s men’s team – the Kookaburras and New Zealand join the fray. The Malaysia Tigers ranked world No 14, take on world No 8 Black Sticks in the first game on Wednesday (Nov 23). Australia and India play in the second match. The final is on Sunday.
The Kookaburras are currently ranked world No 1 in the FIH latest hockey rankings, while Roelant Oltmans India, who won gold medal at QNET Asian Champions Trophy 2016 by defeating traditional rivals Pakistan in the final are world No 6.
The inaugural International Festival of Hockey in Melbourne will also see Test Series between India and Australia’s women teams.
Malaysia Tigers head coach Stephen van Huizen has made changes to the side that won the bronze medal in the Asian Champions Trophy for the Melbourne Festival of Hockey.
Defender Baljit Singh and Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin are back in the squad alongside Mohd Firdaus Omar, Mohd Amirol Aideed, Syed Mohd Syafiq Syed Cholan and Mohd Ramadan Rosli.
The Asian Champions Trophy players dropped are drag-flick specialist Mohd Razie Rahim, Faiz Helmi Jali, Fitri Saari, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor, Mohd Rashid Baharom and Mohd Najib Hassan.
“We made these changes to give the fringe players and those who picked up injuries earlier but have recovered an opportunity to prove themselves. Our preparations are geared towards the Hockey World League Round Two in Trinidad & Tobago next March. I am confident we still have a good team with all these changes in the side,” said Van Huizen.
The last time Malaysia Tigers played the Black Sticks was at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh in April. The teams played to a 3-3 draw in the round-robin league match but New Zealand took bronze following 5-4 victory in penalty shootout after the third-fourth classification match ended in a 3-3 draw in regulation time.
The Malaysia Tigers will face New Zealand in the opening match on Wednesday (Nov 23) followed by India (Nov 24) and Australia (Nov 26).
The Black Sticks are also looking to build on their momentum at the International Festival of Hockey in Melbourne following the 2-1 win over the Kookaburras at the Ford Trans-Tasman Trophy.
Head coach Colin Batch has named a team of 18 players for the Four Nations that includes four senior Black Sticks who competed at the Rio Olympic Games. They are Shea McAleese, Hugo Inglis, Arun Panchia and Kane Russell. Batch has appointed Jared Aleese, who has been playing club hockey in Europe, as captain.
The Ford Trans-Tasman Trophy, added Batch, was a solid platform for the Black Sticks with Melbourne another opportunity to continue progressing.
“Playing consistently has been a big focus for us, and we haven’t always been able to do that but we did that pretty well at Trans-Tasman,” he said. “We go to Melbourne determined to put together good performances in four games and certainly we are out there to win.”
“It will be great to welcome back five players, four who have been playing in Europe, so they will be in good match form and we look forward to what they will add to the group,” he added.
India will be led by drag-flick specialist VR Raghunath in the absence of PR Sreejesh who is carrying a knee injury sustained during the penalty shootout in the semi-final against Korea at the Asian Champions Trophy. Akash Chikte, who performed outstandingly in the final of ACT, will be India’s custodian in Melbourne.
“The Asian Champions Trophy win has boosted the morale of the players and the team’s spirit is high. However, playing in Australia is a different challenge and we are up for it. We have beaten Australia in their home earlier in 2014 Test series and look to repeat similar performance this time too,” said Raghunath.